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Jamie Clifford: Get behind our home-grown heroes

Friday 15th May 2015

Kent Cricket CEO Jamie Clifford writes about the club's commitment to nurturing home-grown talent and the issue of overseas players…

It has been a tough start to the new season and I would like to ask all our supporters to continue to get behind the team as they strive to put in performances with both bat and ball that we know they are very capable of producing.

There is a lot of talent in the Kent dressing room and, of course, a lot of that talent is home-grown.

The make-up of our team is the result of a deliberate policy to give opportunity to young players who have come up through our county’s representative age group and Academy systems.

Those players need encouragement as well as a chance to express themselves, and I am sure we already have a group of young Kent cricketers able – as well as willing – to take us forward.

I know there is talk about us not having an official overseas player in our squad. Yes, we have Brendan Nash, who now has a Kolpak registration, but we have decided not to engage an overseas player for the moment simply because we want to give the best opportunity to our home-produced players.

That, in my view, is what county cricket clubs should be doing.

If we were not producing young homegrown players of first-class standard then there might be a stronger argument for bringing in overseas cricketers – whether existing internationals or Kolpak or England-qualified players.

For instance, Lancashire fielded four overseas players against us at Old Trafford last month: Peter Siddle, their official overseas signing, plus Ashwell Prince, Alviro Petersen and Kyle Jarvis, who for various reasons are able to play as non-overseas registrations.

The contrast between Lancashire’s team line-up to our approach was stark, and there is always a temptation to try to take a short cut towards the success we all want in a results-orientated business.

But what I will underline here is that our current strategy does not mean we have decided not to engage highly-paid overseas cricketers for simple financial reasons.

Our salary outlay is not less, or more, than it was last season, when we engaged Doug Bollinger as a well-paid overseas player, and that is because we have made it a priority to keep at the club our own homegrown talent.

Players like Sam Billings, Adam Riley, Sam Northeast and Daniel Bell-Drummond have earned themselves a high profile within the English domestic game both for their performances to date and for the promise of more to come.

This has a value in the marketplace which has been reflected in the renewed contracts they have all signed with us.

Billings, for instance, since he signed his contract extension, has gone on to represent both the England Lions and to be selected for a full England one-day international – career landmarks which were already in sight when he signed again with us – and I hope that Kent will benefit, in the long-term rather than just in the short-term, from the decisions we have made with regards to our young players and the path we have chosen to follow.

There are others in the pipeline too. Both Ryan Davies and Hugh Bernard are currently in the England Under-19 set-up and we are proud of the great number of players on Kent’s senior staff – including the returning duo, Joe Denly and Matt Coles – who have grown up here.

As part of the on-going process to strengthen Kent cricket at all levels, I am delighted that the Kent Cricket Board and the Kent County Cricket Club now operate under one banner.

The winter merger between the two bodies has been very successful and, to the outside world in particular, it has simplified things hugely.

Commercially, it has already brought results – witness the ground-breaking Canterbury Christ Church University sponsorship of the Kent Women’s team – and I believe we are entering an exciting new era in terms of Kent cricket operating under one umbrella.