Cook – Kent to focus on occasion
Cook – Kent to focus on occasion

Kent Cricket bowling coach Simon Cook has admitted a lot of the club’s preparation for Vitality Blast Finals Day will be focused on dealing with the significance of the occasion.

Cook was the leading wicket taker in the competition when Kent last won England’s domestic T20 tournament back in 2007, so he is no stranger to the big occasion. Some of the players are though, and it will be important to deal with those nerves.

“I think our (the coaching staff) responsibilities will be to relay the nervous energy that can be around and reassuring the players that it is natural, and it will come, and it is one of the things that will increase the performance because they will be right on the edge to go and deliver,” said Cook, speaking ahead of Finals Day.

“Once you bowl or face the first ball that nervous energy does disappear, and you can really start focusing on the job at hand. I think our job really is to make sure that gap between waking up early in the morning to the start of our game, which is actually quite a good block of time, is as relaxed as possible and as normal as possible.”

The preparation won’t be all mental, however. The physical work will have to be done too.

“Physical preparation is important because the guys don’t often play two T20s in a day,” said Cook. “We do play a lot of cricket, but not like that. 

“There is the physical element there, we’ve had Derby in the four day game which finished on Wednesday so you have Thursday, Friday and play, you have to get white ball sessions in and change formats so a lot of thought will have to go into the physical preparation and work load related work around how much they’re bowling.”

Cook remembers bits and pieces of 2007, but insisted the focus is now on the current crop of players.

“I don’t remember too much really,” said the 44-year-old. “I remember having the nervous energy and the time we had to wait to get into the dressing room. We were the second game and getting out onto the ground there were so many people around. It was very different to county cricket.

“I am hugely proud of the work the boys have done both on and off the field. Not only this year but also last year. Last year was a tough year with COVID and how it was all structured but actually putting the faith in a lot of the guys last year to deliver and getting to the quarterfinal stage let our lessons be learnt. 

“We have seen an increased performance in consistency and that is hard to do in T20, but we are very good. That’s where the pride is, it is seeing the guys and how hard they have worked and seeing the fruits of their labour starting to pay off, and September 18th to walk away with the trophy, that is the ultimate goal.”

Though he helps with other aspects of the team too, Cook focuses on aiding the bowlers at Kent, and he is delighted with his group.

“I think we have had a stop-start year,” he said. “In Championship cricket we started slowly, and it took a while to get into games. It has been good to see that that has been rectified. 

“In regards to T20, the work done last year and putting faith into a domestic bowling attack has really started to pay dividends. They are a little bit better at delivering certain skills and variations, but it is where you use them and how you use them and to what batters. Our planning is a lot better, and the players are very clear now on game plans and what they want to deliver, and that really shows in the middle. 

“They are taking control of the fields and what they want to do and how they are constructing their overs and everything else like that. All that sort of stuff is making them perform as a unit. 

“We don’t have one or two players bowling well, it’s three or four. In T20 I think the additions of getting overs out of Jack Leaning has been huge; obviously Joe Denly does a very good job for us up front in the powerplay, but Jack has come in for us and has turned a lot of games on their heads and that gives whoever is captain huge options.”

Kent and their bowlers will face Sussex in the second semifinal on Finals Day, before a potential final against either Somerset or Hampshire.