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Walker positive ahead of new season
Walker positive ahead of new season

The start of Kent’s 2024 Championship season is now just over three weeks away and as the First team squad return to Canterbury in these wet and freezing conditions, we have been talking to head coach Matt Walker. 

“Considering the weather that we’ve been having, it doesn’t seem possible does it,” Walker admitted to KSN when we caught up with the Coach recently.

“For sure it does seem as though it feels like it should be further away, but April 5th will soon be here! It wizzes round – it always seems to do as you get past Christmas, it quickly flies by and before you know where you are, you are playing pre-season.”

“I really enjoy this time of year – it is an exciting time for everybody. We are all full of enthusiasm and optimism for another year; another year to try and improve, be really competitive and really hit the season as hard as we want to hit it!” 

“I think that people have had some really good winters away and the guys who have stayed in this country have worked very hard and we have got a lot of good cricket in, and some really good practice done.”

“When we get together this week, it will be good to get together and see everybody for the first time since the end of the season.”

“It’s always a positive time of year – everyone’s optimistic and looking forward to putting their names forward for that first selection against Somerset.” 

The County have over the course of the winter seen new coaches appointed and Simon Cook becoming Director of Cricket – changes that Walker can’t wait to embrace; “There’s a sense of freshness and “newness” to this year with two new support coaches (batting coach Toby Radford and bowling coach Robbie Joseph), a new Captain (Daniel Bell-Drummond), new Director of Cricket and there’s certainly a fresher feel to it than we’ve had for a couple of years and everyone’s excited for what’s ahead and what’s to come.” 

The Club also announced captains for all three main competitions. “We’re going to have three different captains,” the Head Coach explained.

“Daniel is going to be Club Captain and will run the red ball side. He will not be around during the Royal London anyway as he is drafted to the Hundred.”

“So we’ve kept some continuity with Jack (Leaning) as Vice-Captain in all forms and he will then captain the Royal London side which will further his experience and education in that role which is something that we want to keep improving – allowing him to keep learning and getting better in that role, which is something that he is really keen to do.”

“All three captains are highly respected and highly experienced cricketers and it probably gives Daniel the chance to captain at the start in a very busy period of red ball cricket and it will take the shackles off a little bit when it comes to T20 cricket a little bit when you can just go and play when Sam (Billings) will come in to give the role its’ owns freshness to things.”

“He will not have any other distractions – his experience in T20 is unprecedented really amongst domestic county cricketers given the amount he has played and the amount he has captained.” 

“Sam’s done a great job for us and now with Jack in the Royal London, it gives him the chance to learn the role even more than he’s done so far.”

“I think it will work well and won’t have any confusion as I think people know where they stand – each competition is so different and this year the way that it’s structured with Championship having seven games up front and then the T20 with two four day games in the middle, with the Royal London as a separate entity July into August.” 

There have been changes in the playing squad too “We’ve added to our bowling attack and probably needed to after last year,” Walker admitted.

“In the last couple of seasons, we have been hit pretty hard with injuries. We probably need that number of bowlers to be competitive in an English domestic season.”

“We do have numbers now – we have signed three domestic bowlers in Matt Parkinson who we know is a high-quality spinner, which is a great coup for the Club which we said when we told you when we signed him.”

“To have that level of quality come into our Club and want to be at Canterbury and want to start afresh with us gives us all a real strong punch in that department, a real wicket taker and match winner in all formats.”

“Add that to the two younger seamers in George Garrett and Michael Cohen who have really impressed us, albeit in quite a limited career, as they have not played much or had huge amounts of opportunity at top level, but their promise is something that we have identified and feel that they will really add to the squad.”

“They are first team ready cricketers in my opinion – unproven to a degree, but we certainly feel that we have signed two players who can play first team cricket tomorrow.”

“That definitely strengthens and with the signing of Xavier Bartlett, it will give us that quality overseas pedigree that we feel we need as well.”

“There is going to be competitions for places, but we have to look at it that our bowling has not necessarily been where we wanted it to have been over the last couple of seasons, where we have found it very difficult to take twenty wickets, hence why we have invested very heavily on that front.” 

“We have not scored as many runs at times either that we would have liked – certainly first innings runs which has put us under pressure.”

“That said, we know that bowling attacks are so important to any team as bowlers are what win you Championships, that is for sure – the batters set it up, but the bowlers win you games, so hopefully we’ve got a core group of seamers now who will push each other hard for the spots that are going to be available each match.”

“They are going to be really hungry, and it gives us the options to be able to rotate and rest with a bit more comfort in our control.”