Willis pleased with Sri Lanka trip

Friday 1st March 2013

Kent Cricket High Performance Director, Simon Willis has returned from Columbo, having taken four Academy scholars, along with all-rounder Adam Ball on a nine day visit to Sri Lanka, with Kent County Cricket Supporters Club having helped finance the journey.

Whilst they were there, the five cricketers were put through their paces, learning to adapt to new conditions, and Willis believes they will have all come back to Kent having improved their individual games; “It was a new experience for all of us as I hadn’t been to Sri Lanka before. In the past we’ve gone to India, but for various reasons we couldn’t go there this year.”

“It was a lot hotter and a lot more humid than we’ve experienced in the past so it was some challenging conditions particularly for the younger guys.”

“We probably had fourteen or fifteen local net bowlers in the nets every day and the majority were the same guys, so there was a relationship starting to build as the trip went on.”

“The spinners were talking about doosras and other deliveries so that was good, but some of the other senior players that were out there from other counties were having chats with our lads, not only in the nets, but in the bar of an evening over a glass of coke.”

“Our lads were able to pick the brains of Hampshire captain, Jimmy Adams and the likes of Liam Dawson, We also had Malinga Bandara come down for the day, so they will have got a lot of information. All they’ve got to do now is work out what works well for them.”

One of the most telling elements of the trip was surviving away from the comforts of home, with Willis commenting that he hopes the cricketers will have learnt how lucky they are with life in the UK; “There are a lot of lifestyle issues that come out of a trip like this. First of all, they were playing day in, day out, not having mum or dad there to do your washing, being around professional cricketers as there were first class cricketers out there from various counties.”

“Also, the whole cultural experience from driving from the airport to the hotel, the things they witnessed and observed will have hopefully given them some life experiences.”

“So, when they are going through a few tough times or have had a run of bad scores, maybe they will think back to life in Sri Lanka and realise how lucky they are and how life can be quite challenging for others.”

Adam Ball was the most senior of the five players on the trip from Kent, and he looks to build up his pre-season schedule ahead of a demanding season ahead with Kent.

The former England Under 19′s captain is studying at the University of Kent, but will be available for selection for the majority of the season, and Willis is hoping he continues to progress over the coming year; “I don’t know if it is a big season for him as he is only nineteen years old, but it is a season he is looking forward to as he hasn’t got any other distractions.”

“He knows that if he is performing well, that he could force his way into the first team in all formats. He is very focused and very professional, he doesn’t leave anything to chance and that’s why he was such a great role model out in Sri Lanka for the younger lads to see what it takes to get to that next level.”

Each year, Kent supporter will to the Academy to see if the next Rob Key or James Tredwell is to come through the system, and Willis has said he was sufficiently impressed with those who made the trip to Sri Lanka, to suggest Kent has some bright young talents waiting in the wings; “I think the Sri Lanka trip has been very encouraging, and some of the guys that came out with me certainly showed me that they’ve got some qualities and characteristics that are going to allow them to make the step up.”

“Ultimately, it comes down to consistent performance and that’s what we want. This year, with a slightly smaller squad there’s going to be plenty of opportunities for the younger guys, so we’re expecting some good performances from a number of them.”

Last season saw Kent take the Second XI County Championship and this year once again it will be used to give the Kent coaching staff the chance to have a look at the rising stars at Canterbury.

The likes of Daniel Bell-Drummond, Sam Billings and Fabian Cowdrey are all looking for a first team call up this summer and Willis hopes the Second XI will provide the perfect stepping stone for those looking to make it to the next level; “For me, the second team is all about getting players ready for the first team, whether that is young players coming through or that’s players on the staff that haven’t quite got in yet, or whether that’s players out of form or coming back from injury.”

“Our main aim is to make sure as and when the door opens at first team level, we’ve got guys ready to step up and do the job.”

“If we get success at second team level off the back of that, then that’s fantastic. The guys now know the standards we expect at that level and last year was a big step forwards, and hopefully they will gain a lot of confidence from that.”

Simon Willis was speaking to Steve Wolfe of KSN