Key looking to bright Kent future

Wednesday 4th April 2012

Men’s First Team

Rob Key believes he and head coach Jimmy Adamscould have a selection headache this week. The departure of batsmen Joe Denly and Martin van Jaarsveld at the end of last season could have left the side short of options, but the arrival of Scott Newman on loan, and the signings of Charlie Shreck, Mike Powell, Ben Harmison, Brendan Nash and Mark Davieshas givenKent an abundance of options fortheir Championship opener against Yorkshire at Headingley.

All six signings are expected to be in the side, with the likes of Darren Stevens, Geraint Jones, Matt Coles, Adam Riley and Key expected to be named in the twelve man squad.

Over the past couple of seasons, Kent have relied on youngsters to plug holes in the side vacated by injured players, but this season Key believes fans will see a more experienced line up; “It’s hard work trying to work outwho's going to play the first game, which isn’t a position we’ve been in for a while. We’re in a position where more than the eleven have a right to play and that’s something new, certainly for the past couple of years.

“We’ve created an environment where there’s competition for places. Last year we had a situation where people in the first team were struggling for form, averaging less than thirty, but people in the second team were probably averaging less than that, so people were getting cricket without really deserving it.

“When I got into the side all those years ago, you had to force your way in and I’d like to think we’re back to that position now. We don’t know what’s going to happen with injuries, but there’s some selection dilemmas ahead which is a breath of fresh air.”

Around the Club, it’s obvious to see that there is a renewed sense of optimism about the season ahead and Key is no different in his view; “The feeling we’ve had in pre-season, from Antigua to being back at home, people are on their toes now and that’s where you want to be as a cricket team.

“Last year, Glamorgan turned up here expecting to beat us in any form of the game, where we have set the tone now is that people aren’t going to turn up at Canterbury and expect to win. We’ve got some serious cricketers here now and people will fear some of the players we’ve got here now.”

Despite the new signings having decent track records in their own right, Key feels each and every one of them has something to prove over the coming months; “Every one of them have got records, but the likes of Mark Davies will want to prove that he’s got something left in him. From what we’ve seen so far, I don’t think he’s bowled a bad ball yet. He is a great player to get into your set up, along with people like Mike Powell as they’re hungry to prove that they can still do it.”

This season Key will be faced by an awkward situation; having to let players know that they won’t be playing first team cricket, with Azhar Mahmood, James Tredwell, Adam Ball and Daniel Bell-Drummond set to return to the country in the coming weeks looking to gain a place in the side.

Add those four to the sixteen present at the Club’s media day on Friday, along with Ben Kemp and Adam Riley who will also be looking to challenge for a place in the first eleven this season, and Key states how difficult it could be for him as captain to help make decisions about who would be playing and who would be missing out; “It’s tough and that’s your worry as you’re going to have to start upsetting people who feel they deserve to play and they do deserve to play.

“Last year we had a game where Dewald Nel came in, bowled a few overs and then retired shortly after that. This year we’re in a completely different position and a start of something I believe. We’ve looked in the winter at putting a process in placeof making Kent Cricket a strong side and I really believe this is the start of it.

“The senior guys we’ve brought in, along with Jimmy and myself are here to start the culture and environment that we want. The young guys can then come in and take the baton when my time is done. That way we’re not asking young guys to come in and score 1200 to 1300 runs in the Championship. That’s the senior guys’ job and these guys can then come into the side nice and steadily into a decent team.”

As for Key himself, the skipper is looking to have a good summer, having missed the end of last season with a wrist injury that required surgery; “During the winter it was touch and go as to whether I’d be ready, but I got ahead of schedule and batted in the game against Middlesex getting 90 odd. I didn’t feel any pain and it’s probably been better than it has done for a couple of years. I’m looking to score the runs I need to for the side and I’m sure the wrist will be fine.”

Kent’s Championship gameagainst Yorkshire begins at 11am on Thursday.

Rob Key was speaking to Steve Wolfe of KSN