Graham Ford previews the Twenty20 Cup

Saturday 23rd May 2009

KENT“S Director of Cricket Graham Ford is eagerly anticipating what he expects to be another fascinating Twenty20 Cup campaign. The Spitfires“ 2009 T20 season gets underway tomorrow when they play old rivals, the Essex Eagles, at Canterbury. Like all supporters, Ford cannot wait for things to start: ‘Everybody is excited. It“s a refreshing competition and there is lots of Twenty20 cricket being played at the moment. The IPL is ongoing, the World T20 is upcoming and everyone seems to like this relatively new brand. It brings its own huge challenges but the guys have worked hard on their games and are now looking forward to getting going against Essex.“

Kent won the tournament in 2007, and reached last year“s final, but Ford doesn“t believe they deserve the tag of competition favourites, as he explains: ‘I certainly don“t think we are the favourites. Our squad has changed and many others teams will fancy their chances after strengthening their own respective sides. T20 is a difficult format, all sorts of things can happen during matches and I don“t think you can look back at past records. Everybody starts from scratch and it“s important that we get stuck in and play each ball on its individual merit.“

The Spitfires jump straight from the 50 overs, of the Friends Provident Trophy, into the twenty overs of T20. How difficult is it to move from one form of the game straight into another? ‘I suppose it is quite difficult“, said Ford. ‘However, a lot of the skills are the same and I think its part of county cricket that you change from one format to another. I guess it will be the team that makes the smoothest change that comes out on top. The challenge is there for everyone and I know that all counties will be desperate to enjoy a good Twenty20 Cup this season.“

Kent go into another tricky few zonal matches in the so-called group of death, The Twenty20 Cup: South Division. Commentators have called it the most difficult group to get out of and Ford can understand those comments: ‘I think everyone feels that their group is the toughest. There are some wonderful cricketers in all the groups so the competition is highly competitive. It was touch and go for us last year. We only just qualified, in third place, so that shows the depth in our group. Over the last couple of years, Southern teams have shown some good form to reach the knockout stages. Things aren“t going to change so its important that we get stuck in and hopefully get off to a good start.“

Finally, after great difficulty trying to get back into the UK, Ford is clearly delighted to be back and playing a part in what all hope will be another successful year for Kent cricket: ‘It was a massive challenge for me, with the visa issues, and it was difficult when I first arrived because I hadn“t really been in the swing of things. As expected, the guys made me feel very welcome and I felt right back into it by the time we finished at Edgbaston (against Warwickshire). I missed the early part; pre-season and the first few matches, and that was disappointing because it is such an important time. Still the team got off to a good start and it“s important that we now keep that going.“

Kent have brought batsman Sam Northeast into their 12-man squad for tomorrow’s opening Twenty20 Cup tie with the Essex Eagles at Canterbury. Northeast replaces Wayne Parnell, who has returned to his native South Africa in preparation for the T20 World Cup.

Kent Spitfires: Denly, Key (C), van Jaarsveld, G Jones (W), Hockley, Kemp, Mahmood, Northeast, Tredwell, Cook, Joseph, Ferley

Picture courtesy of Getty Images