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Walker looking to the future
Walker looking to the future

Coach Matt Walker is optimistic about the future of Kent Cricket with some quality signings coming in over the winter.

The 2023 domestic cricket season has been consigned to the record books and for Kent and coach Matt Walker it was a season of struggles with both the red and white ball.

It was also the season that saw the end of an era at Canterbury with the departure of Paul Downton, the end of the Sam Billings era of being Club Captain along with the comings and goings of the playing staff. 

We have sat down with Walker for his fullest and frankest interviews since Kent’s Great Escape on the Final Day of the Championship season, today our conversation ends with a look ahead to 2024 and some exciting signings that have already been announced. 

Top of the list of incomings at Canterbury at the moment undoubtedly is the arrival of Matt Parkinson from Lancashire.

“When we were looking at our recruitment process and strategy for 2024, I do not think that we had a spin bowler at the top of the list.”

“His name came up and it seemed quite clear that he had his eye on coming to Kent for what I think could be a couple of reasons.”

“He has always bowled well here and has been a real thorn in our side over several years and just wanted to get away from Lancashire.”

“Really it was a no brainer on our behalf once the early discussions had taken place – the desire and the plan that he saw for the next few years of his career – and to have a cricketer of his level want to come to us is a huge coup!”

“He’s still an international cricketer and he wants to play for Kent – he’s already had a taste of things in the Metro Cup and seems to have fallen in love with the place.”

“He will make a huge impact across all formats of the game giving us a big boost – his numbers are exceptional.”

“We are thrilled about it and gives us a wicket taking threat for a side that struggled to get twenty wickets in a game last year!” 

“George Garrett comes to us from Warwickshire – he’s a young bowler who has struggled to get into their attack because of the quality that they have.”

“We have been very impressed with him – a young bowler who is very assured of himself, who has an action that is very repeatable and very consistent, and we see him fitting into our group.”

“He’s a signing that we like to make – young cricketers who are a little bit lost and cannot seem to progress at the County that they are in and hopefully he will take up the reigns with us and we can improve him, giving him the opportunity as he fits into our bowling squad.” 

Walker then confirmed that Wes Agar will be returning to Canterbury.

“Wes has signed,” he said. “It was done very early and was another no-brainer; he loved his time with us, and we loved having him – he was the perfect overseas player really; a really good man, real professional who cares deeply.”

“His work rate and his effort and what he did on the field for us was… you really could not ask for anymore – definitely the sort of bloke that you want around.”

“People feed off that energy and that desire and passion – when it was proposed to him about coming back in 2024, he did not hesitate.”

“That is locked in which is great news as attracting overseas players next year is going to be even tougher because of the T20 World Cup in the USA and Canada.”

“It will not be easy to have players here even for a short period of time, but Wes is available, and Wes is signed up!” 

Whilst the incomings are welcome there are also those who will not be in Kent colours in 2024, and of those we spoke first about Jordan Cox. 

“It was a little while ago now that Jordan’s decision was made,” the coach recalled.

“People leave clubs for whatever reason and sometimes you understand them and sometimes maybe not so much and you respect it – you must.”

“I have always said to myself that if a player wants to leave, you will try and stop them and do your best to convince them not to, but if that does not work, you shake them by the hand and wish them well.”

“And that is exactly what happened with Coxy – I would like to think that we tried everything we could to keep him at the Club.”

“We recognised his talent very early and gave him every opportunity he could have imagined. And as a Kent player who has gone through our system it is a slighter hard pill to swallow at such a young age.”

“He will have his reasons – there’s probably a number of things and we wish him the very best and I think that we will miss a very good player who has done some very good things for us!” 

“That’s the modern game and players do want to move for a number of reasons, and I guess that we have to take it on the chin!” 

Another player not returning after announcing his retirement is Michael Hogan, and Walker said, “Hoge’s stay was a short one for us and it was great to have him around this year.”

“It was only going to be a short-term thing – he did well for us. Certainly, in the T20 he really shone; he would have liked more wickets in the Championship and certainly his “five-fer” against Notts was a real highlight from where he’s really at as a senior bowler!”

“For him to retire now was probably right for him at this time in his head – I think he’s been a credit to the Club; the boys have loved having him around as a senior player and will be a particularly good coach one day, I am sure of that.”

“It has been great working with him and for what he offered this year was great!”