Walker wants Kent to learn lessons
Walker wants Kent to learn lessons

Kent’s head coach Matthew Walker is telling his Spitfires squad to learn from last season’s harsh white-ball lessons ahead of Thursday’s start to their Royal London One-Day Cup campaign in Hove.

Walker’s side will travel to take on a Sussex Sharks outfit still smarting from Sunday’s three-day defeat in the Specsavers County Championship in Canterbury to a Kent side inspired by Matt Henry’s heroics with bat and ball.

Yet Walker is well aware the slate will be wiped clean once the sides walk out again at the 1st Central County Ground come 11am.

Walker’s warning follows Kent’s dismal showing in the 50-over tournament last season when Spitfires, under the leadership of then captain Sam Northeast, finished bottom of the nine-team South Group with a woeful playing record of one win from eight starts.

“One of the big things we’ve stressed coming into our white-ball cricket is for our leaders to show up out in the middle during games,” explained the 44-year-old coach. “You want your big-game players to drive the team on by example and from the front.

“With Joe Denly now leading the side in the absence of Sam Billings and the likes of Heino [Kuhn] and Matt [Henry] joining the staff, I’ve seen glimpses of this happening already this summer.

“Those signs show up in different ways, players can lead in practice, in the dressing rooms during our team meetings or, and most importantly, out on the field. The crucial thing is, to see it happening.”

Other than improving the side’s leadership roles and on-field decision making, Walker has also stressed that his players must start to do themselves credit when it comes to their individual performances.

“It’s always an exciting time at the start of a new competition and I want the lads to really embrace that for motivation.

“I know there’s never a lot of turnaround time for the guys to switch from four-day cricket to the one-day games, but there’s no excuses there because it’s the same for every player and every club in the tournament.

“So, the Kent lads will have a few days to brush up on their white-ball skills before they need to go out and make it count.”

Walker added: “Last year we never really put a full game together. It wasn’t one particular area, it was just lack of consistency and a lack of basic, white-ball skills.

“I felt that we’d had this tag with the opposition that Kent are a decent side who can be a soft touch at times and that’s a reputation that we can only lose by playing tougher and winning games of cricket the hard way.”

On the selection front, acting captain Denly looks set to be without Australian-born all-rounder Grant Stewart, who hobbled out of Kent’s last game with a recurrence of a hamstring strain.

Seamer and white-ball specialist Mitch Claydon has recovered from his long-term hand injury, however, and could come into consideration after his return for the county 2nd XI against Hampshire earlier this week.