Walker – Kent are ready for Finals
Walker – Kent are ready for Finals

Kent Cricket head coach Matt Walker has been full of praise for his squad as they prepare to take part in Vitality Blast Finals Day for the first time since 2009.

Walker, who top scored for the Spitfires as a player in the final when they last won the tournament in 2007, branded the Kent players “ready” following the journey they have been on in the last few years, but admitted it won’t be easy in Birmingham.

“Everyone is aware of this squad now,” said Walker, previewing the day. “It is not just about one or two people, it is about a team. We have a great group of players. 

“People have had big experiences, but it is different with your own county. No matter what I say, on the day and you have to adapt, stay calm and take the occasion away. They have no reason to doubt themselves. They should take a lot of confidence. I know they are ready and excited for it.

“I am their friend as well as their head coach. We spend a lot of time together and we bond. It doesn’t change because you are head coach.”

Perhaps the most rewarding thing for Walker has been seeing his players’ progress. They have reached quarterfinals and a One Day final in recent times, bit this year feels different.

“As a head coach you are balancing things,” admitted Walker. “We are not a big spending club and we do it differently in terms of investing in young players.

“We have made sure we have got the right people in, and it has paid off; Matt Milnes, Fred Klaassen, Jack Leaning, Jordan Cox. It is all very well giving opportunity, but the players have got to take that. We have been on a journey – we have built on the final of 2018 and now we are here with a really competitive squad.

“You set your goals out and every coach in the land wants to win something. We have an opportunity, and it would be a goal to tick off. This T20 campaign has been a real highlight and if we win it, it is what everyone wants. You want to win as much as you can.”

Walker admitted he was always nervous as a player, but he doesn’t tend to show any of those emotions on Saturday.

“It would have been a lot easier for me to be playing in it,” he joked. “I would have been more relaxed as a player than as a coach, although I will be trying my hardest to stay calm. 

“I am a nervous watcher but try not to be. That’s important as a coach. You don’t want to be the one all over the place because it sends the wrong message out. You are the calming influence. 

“What will be will be – you can’t do anything about it. I wasn’t a very good watcher as a player, and I would hide somewhere, but you can’t do that as a coach. But I trust this side hugely. It will be fine.

“It is out your hands on the day and to see this group get to finals day was a great moment, but the big days aren’t that great if you don’t win them. 

“The team should enjoy it, but if they win it, it will be something that stays with them forever. But I will be proud of them whatever happens.”

Kent will play in the second semifinal on Saturday versus Sussex, before a potential final in the evening against either Somerset or Hampshire.

Picture supplied by Max Flego Photography.