Jamie Reid talks to Simon Willis

Monday 9th March 2009

KENT’s cricketers return for pre-season training a fortnight today although most have been working hard throughout the winter. As the build-up for the new season continues, Jamie Reid talks to Coach Simon Willis to get the latest on the search for an overseas player as well as an injury update.

JR: Simon, you are putting some of the guys through their paces again today. It’s hardly cricketing weather here in the UK, but the guys are scattered all around the world at the moment. Are you keeping in contact with how things are going?

SW: Yes, of course. We have lots of people playing cricket abroad – like many other counties. We have guys in South Africa, Australia and – of course – with both England and the England Lions. Those not overseas have put in plenty of hard work with me and the other coaches here at Canterbury. We have worked hard since November and are now starting to put in the last stages of preparation, in readiness for the new season.

JR: Players are certainly more athletic now and fitness is far more important. Do the players work harder now then, say, when you played?

SW: Definitely yes. The rewards are that much higher these days. If players perform then they reap the benefits. They understand that they need to be fitter because they are playing lots of cricket and all the travelling and match action does take its toll on the body. Fortunately we have a dedicated group of players and they are happy to put the required work in.

JR: Is it difficult with players spread all around the world?

SW: Yes, it is pretty hard although it’s the same for every county. Most teams have guys going overseas, to carry on playing during our winter – but we have to keep an eye on which club they choose. The big issue, for me, is the standard of cricket when they play abroad, Obviously you want them to keep improving and they will only do that by playing a good standard of cricket. You want something that is going to challenge them game-in, game-out. If players aren’t getting that then it’s obviously not beneficial to them.

JR: Is it hard for them to readjust when they get back to the UK because wickets are different all around the world?

SW: It is difficult, but the guys who play in different countries do get used to it. Having said that, I agree you do need a period back here in the UK to readjust. Obviously the decks in South Africa are completley different to an April wicket here.

JR: Onto the fitness situation – how are things?

SW: Everyone is good at the moment so long may that continue. Martin van Jaarsveld is the only injured player but we are confident that he will be OK for the start of the season.

JR: That’s good news. Have you spoken to him?

SW: Yes, and Graham Ford is keeping a close eye on things while I have chatted to him on the phone a few times. Our Physio, Nimmo Reid, has also been across so we are doing all we can to ensure that one of our key players is fit for the start of the season. When he suffered the injury, we were told it would take 4-6 weeks to rehabilitate but Martin is a hard worker and I’m confident he will be available when we need him.

JR: Not long away now is it?

SW: No – it’s getting ever closer!The boys formally report back on 23 March although, as I mentioned, quite a few of us have been putting in hard work for the last couple of months. I’m looking forward to pre-season – when we all return – as we know we have a 4 week period before the competitive action gets underway.

JR: It will be a bit different this year. After the unfortunate agony of relegation, it’s Division Two of the LV County Championship. Will that prove any different?

SW: Yes, it will. There are a number of challenges facing us this year. We will play on a lot more result wickets this summer, so it will be more challenging for the batters. Again, we are going to run with a relatively small squad so we need to effectively manage that so we can keep people sharp across the season. It promises to be another difficult year because we will be playing some good sides, but everyone is up for the challenge and we are looking forward to it.

JR: Onto a burning question – any news on an overseas player?
SW: No, not really. The current international schedule makes it difficult for us to pin people down. Once we know who is available then we will go for our man. First prize would be someone available for the whole season, but we also want a player that is going to be a quality addition and not just here for the money.

JR: Is it difficult to sift out those that want it from those that don’t?

SW: Yes, it can be and teams do occasionally get it wrong. One of the key questions that we ask is why do players want to play county cricket?Different people give different answers to this question but we obviously want someone who has a pride in their performance and someone who is going to keep digging away. You want a great team-man and someone that the other boys in the dressing room can look up to and respect.

JR: Both Geraint Jones and yourself have been helping to shape the cricketing futures of the next generation recently. I know it proved very popular. Do you enjoy coaching the youngsters in the Kent Cricket Academy with Geraint?
SW: Yes, both of us really enjoy it. My philosophy is simple:I want to work with people from the start of their careers right through to the first team boys and all the way in between. It’s important that the lads throughout the system are properly looked after and we have some great coaches here at Kent. I guess that the bottom line is that I enjoy coaching, Jonesy has also shown a great appetite for working hard with the youngsters and this all adds value to what we do at the Club.

JR: Finally, you were very instrumental in creating the Kent Academy. Are you pleased with how things are going?

SW: Yes, of course. The coaches, led by Academy Director Phil Relf, work hard across the year and are teaching the youngsters all the right things. If I’m honest I would like to see a few more players coming through and knocking hard on the first team door. Obviously Joe Denly and Sam Northeast have shown they are good enough, but I’m hoping that a few more will continue to develop and show their worth this season. With finances tight in sport, it’s important to bring the young players through, and I know that the members like seeing players that have developed throughout the system here at Kent.

Picture courtesy of Terry Mahoney