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Simon Cook outlines plan as incoming Director of Cricket

Thursday 14th September 2023

Kent Cricket

Written by Fred Atkins – ECB Reporters’ Network

“I’m still the bowling coach for now,” Simon Cook reminds us, and perhaps himself, after spending the best part of half an hour telling reporters what his new job as Kent’s Director of Cricket entails.

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After discussing the need to develop a brand of cricket, sign at least two bowlers and work on everything from the academy to the pitches at Canterbury and Beckenham, he’s clear the short-term priority is simple: stay in Division One of the LV= Insurance County Championship.

“Absolutely the focus has to be on these next three weeks, getting as many points as we can out of these three games and retaining division one status,” Cook said. “At that point we can look at what we need to do going forwards, in the short, medium and long term.”

Quite how he does that is up to Cook. There’s no specific job description but he’ll have to deal with everything his predecessor Paul Downton did while retaining a coaching role.

“I get the opportunity to mould this role how I want it, so I’ll still be able to get my coaching fix while being able to develop strategies and move the club forwards,” he said. “I still feel I’ve got some life in my coaching legs, but when this opportunity came up it was an easy decision to go for it.”

“It was one of the things I said right up front that it if was going to be me I would still play an active part and there were two reasons for that. One was selfish: I enjoy coaching still and feel I can make a difference with the bowlers in particular; the second was being able to use me as a bit of a release valve for the other coaches.”

Cook officially starts on 1 October There’ll be a transition for a month but Cook has already says he intends stay in close touch with Downton when that expires.

He’s well aware it’s a tough act to follow. “If you look at the success we’ve had over the last six years, there’s been a couple of trophies, a couple of finals, there’s been a promotion,” he said. “Regardless of what happens in the next couple of weeks, the pro staff has been left in a strong position, but we’re in a cycle and we’ve had a couple of key players leaving and with ‘Stevo’ finishing it leaves us a very big hole. Ollie Robinson and Jordan Cox leaving has also left a bit of a dent and it’s going to take a bit of time to fill those holes, but inherently Paul has built a very strong squad.”

As a parting gift, the signing of Matt Parkinson is likely to take some beating, but Downton was also an expert at finding players with minimal notice, most memorably when he helped save the 2021 Canterbury Cricket Week after a dozen first-teamers had to isolate the day before the game.

The nature of the circuit means Cook can’t see doesn’t see any immediate end to the carousel of loan deals. (Aron Nijjar being the latest to join from Essex, ahead of the Nottinghamshire game).

“With the size of staff we have no there’s no getting round it and I’ve no doubt we’ll go down that route before the end of the season,” he admitted. “One of the things I need to look at is our squad size too small and do we need more strength in depth? I’ll be a bit biased in that, I think we need another couple of bowlers, that’s probably a given and we maybe need a couple of others as well.”

And as he points out, there is an upside: “Yuzvendra Chahal coming in gives the players a lift straight away. You’ve got an international class spinner. He’s a bouncy, bubbly character who brings a lot to the dressing room. He’ll bring an injection of enthusiasm for these last three games which is vital, particularly in high stress games. You’ve got to be able to take the pressure off a little bit and be able to express yourself in a way where you don’t fear the consequences of getting out, bowling badly or losing the game.”

Cook plans to be more directly involved with the players during matches, but also to get more contact hours with both the second-team and the junior sides.

His vision for a Kent “brand” may have clinched the job. “I was able to demonstrate a very clear vision of how we want our teams to play and how we’re going to get there,” he said.

“We play some good cricket at the moment but I don’t necessarily feel there’s a true brand and that brand needs to filter down through the pathway. A lot of that goes into fielding for example. When you walk into the ground you shouldn’t really be able to tell what the score is by looking at a team’s body language. Fielders should be wanting to make an impact, whether it’s by taking a catch or making a run out and then you create that belief that you can win games from any situation.

“We need to be producing or our own cricketers and we need to be producing England players, we have to look at that as a top target. If we produce England players we’re going to be a successful team.”

International T20 cricket is back at The Spitfire Ground after 12 years next Summer!

International T20 cricket will return to Canterbury on Thursday 11 July 2024 when The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence hosts the 3rd match in England’s IT20 series against New Zealand.

It is only the second time that Canterbury has hosted a Women’s International T20 match in its long history, and will be another boost for the continued growth of women’s cricket in Kent.

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