The seemingly unflappable demeanour of Kent’s newly appointed head coach Matt Walker appears to be coping admirably with a couple of unforeseen issues that have failed to dent spirits at the county’s pre-season training camp.
With captain Sam Northeast and opening batsman Daniel Bell-Drummond absent on representative duty in Dubai and no overseas professional yet confirmed, Walker could have done without the visa issues that have thus far prevented either Allan Donald or Jason Gillespie from joining Kent as his right-hand man.
Gillespie, the former Yorkshire coach, is still favourite to act as locum for Donald, however, after the ex-South Africa and Warwickshire spearhead was refused a work permit visa after being offered the assistant coaching role during the winter.
On a more positive front, Walker will be relieved that strike bowler Matt Coles is recovering well from a procedure to remove a varicose vein from his troublesome big toe and has joined the remainder of his squad back in training at The Spitfire Ground St Lawrence.
The head coach is also pleased to have added 20-year-old Joe Weatherley to the Kent squad. The rookie top-order batsman and off-spinner has joined on long-term loan from Hampshire with the intention of adding to his nine first XI appearances for the south coast county.
Commenting on Weatherley’s capture, Walker, who was promoted to replace Jimmy Adams during the close season, said; “He’s a very fine young batter. I’d not seen that much of him personally before he came to us, but, from what I’ve seen he’s a very well organised young cricketer who is highly regarded by Hampshire. He’s very ambitious, has a good cricket brain and is a good lad, who has fitted in brilliantly since he’s been with us.
“Joe has captained England Under-19s, so has an experienced head on young shoulders in that regard. He also adds to our batting unit and that’s the message I wanted to get across to Joe, he’s part of our squad and is challenging for a first team place. He gives us depth and creates competition for places, which is exactly what we wanted.
With Northeast and Bell-Drummond away in the United Arab Emirates ahead of the ECB’s inaugural North v South curtain raiser to the domestic season, Walker said he was happy to strengthen his side’s batting options.
“Hampshire had signed a couple of new batters, James Vince appears to be out of the England set-up right now and Michael Carberry is healthy again and back in training, which is great news for ‘Carbs’, but all of that meant Joe’s chances of forcing his way in became less and less,” Walker explained.
“Understandably, they were keen to get him out on loan and were also keen for him to come to us which is flattering for our players and the coaching set up we have here. How long Joe’s with us we’ll have to wait and see, but it’s good to have him here pushing for a place.”
Having already enjoyed a month in the Caribbean competing in the West Indies Regional Super50 tournament, Kent’s players will start their extended pre-season preparations in earnest with a three-day fixture in Canterbury against Leeds Bradford MCCU starting on Tuesday, March 28. They then welcome neighbours Surrey for a two-day friendly starting on Sunday, April 2. Parking and admission is free for the matches, which both start at 11am.