THIS time last year Kent were catching their catches and few rays of sunshine on a short pre-season trip to Portugal but this spring the county“s squad for 2009 have remained at their St Lawrence
Working hard with coaching co-ordinator Simon Willis and Kent Academy Director Phil Relf, the players have enjoyed net sessions, training drills and three days of centre practice against Nottinghamshire.
Inevitably, there have been niggling injury concerns, but overall Willis is delighted with what he has seen so far. He said: “It has been the most challenging pre-season for a number of reasons, and I guess the biggest of those has been the financial impact of cuts to the budgets.
“In an ideal world we would have liked to have gone abroad, but for various reasons that hasn“t happened. Added to that, we“ve had guys spread all over the world playing cricket for England, the Lions and overseas in provincial tournaments, so we“ve not had the entire squad back here for as long as we might have liked.
“On the flip side to that, it has given us a great chance to have a closer look at the younger guys and see how they have developed over the winter.”
While Warwickshire enjoyed three weeks training in South Africa and neighbours Sussex, Middlesex, Surrey and Essex jetted off for a pre-season tournament in Dubai, so Kent were enjoying good weather for their net sessions at St Lawrence. For Willis at least, training at home could not have gone much better than it has, but he admits remaining in Canterbury was in fact, his ‘Plan B“.
He added: “We did get very close to going to Sri Lanka. I got together with ‘Bumpy“ (Steve Rhodes) at Worcestershire and we“d put plans in place for a three-team tournament involving the two counties and the Sri Lanka A side, but then the Sri Lankan board moved the dates for their domestic competitions which left our idea in ruins.
“But so far we“ve been very lucky staying here as we“ve only missed one day“s work outdoors due to bad weather. Sure, it“s been a bit chillier than Sri Lanka, but the guys have done some good work and have stuck to the task well.
“From a point of view of spending time out in the middle on grass pitches then we certainly can“t complain. I“d say the senior bowlers and batters have all started well, the younger lads maybe still have a bit of work to do but what you want to see from pre-season is steady improvement throughout the games so that we peak at the right time for that opening championship match with
As coaching co-ordinator and manager, Willis says the players are very much aware of the financial down-turn that has hit the club during the close season and believes they have reacted to the changes in a professional manner.
He added: “They are very much aware of the club“s situation and want to do all they can to help. It has impacted on everybody here, the support staff, people in the offices and the players, but when it comes to walking across the white line then I know the team will be focussed on their job and performing to the best of their ability.
“I would like to think it won“t affect them in terms of carrying out their jobs, but I also know that as a bunch of lads they are also very willing to help the club whenever and however they can.”
Simon Willis was talking with Mark Pennell.
Picture courtesy of Anthony Roberts shows Simon Willis (left) with Kent physio Nimmo Reid.