Published: 00:00, 15 June 2017
Jason Gillespie reflected fondly on his early-season spell as interim assistant coach at Kent, saying there is an air of confidence around the club which he hopes will lead to success.
The former Australia Test fast bowler, 42, bid farewell to Canterbury at the weekend to head back Down Under before taking up a coaching role with Australia A ahead of an away series with South Africa.
The former Yorkshire head coach said: “It’s been a nice challenge and something I’ve enjoyed.
“I’ve certainly learned about different parts of the game. I suppose being an assistant coach you’re a little bit more hands-on and one-to-one with players, having conversations over a cup of tea or out on the track discussing tactics.”
Gillespie said he has grown as a coach during his 10-week stay at the Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, adding: “It’s been good fun. I’ve enjoyed seeing how Walks operates and drives the first team and the club – it’s been fantastic.
“He’s been an immense support to me. He’s knowledgeable and I love listening to him talk cricket. I picked up a few tips on how to manage players and groups from him.
“He likes a light atmosphere with the lads, a smile on their faces but a focus, too. It’s not all just fun and games – you have a job to do here. He’s good at finding that balance.”
Gillespie also hailed skipper Sam Northeast and hopes he is given an opportunity to play for England.
He said: “Sam’s a good captain, tactically out on the ground, how he uses his bowlers and field settings – his match awareness is sound.
“He has every opportunity to knock on the door for England selection.
“It comes down to that currency of scoring big runs. All you can do as a player is keep knocking on the door.
“It comes to the point when the selectors say ‘we can’t leave him out any longer.’
“I hope he is afforded that opportunity but the ball is in his court – he has to put pressure on the guys in that England side.”
Another player to catch Gillespie’s eye is Darren Stevens – just a year and 11 days his junior – who is still going strong nearly nine years after Gillespie’s own retirement.
Gillespie added: “A lot of credit has to go to him and how he looks after himself. He worked hard in the winter on his fitness.
“Strength and conditioning is vital for every single player and Stevo has to train differently to some of the younger guys but he’s been putting the time and effort in.
“Stevo just loves playing. He wants to play for as long as he can and he’s put a real solid effort in to help him achieve that.”
Promotion-chasing Kent are unbeaten in their opening six games of the Championship season, not that Gillespie is surprised, saying: “I’ve seen how hard the lads work and the efforts they’ve put in and how hard the support staff work to help prepare the lads.
“The lads are going out there and talking about their plans, then they’ve been going out and delivering their skills.
“There’s an air of confidence and that confidence has come from the hard work and effort the lads have put in in pre-season and early season.”
Gillespie claimed his influence on the players had mainly been through conversation and he had not reinvented the wheel.
He said: “I’ve been speaking to lads individually about their games but there has been no reinvention of the wheel.
“I’ve been having conversations with the bowlers, in particular, about what they are trying to achieve. It’s just giving them reminders about what they are trying to achieve and how I can help them.
“We talk about lines and lengths and challenge them to work hard on that in training and then give them feedback during matches and post-match.”
Gillespie admitted he would miss Canterbury but not as much as the Kent staff.
He said: “It’s always the people you’re working with – the support staff and players, that’s what you’ll miss. I love Canterbury as a place. I’m not a big fan of real big cities so this fits in perfectly. I’ve been living within a minute’s walk so I’ll certainly be missing that commute!”
“You miss that banter and fun. I’ll miss the lads going out and playing great cricket and singing that victory song. They are almost as excited to sing the team song as they are to win. I wish Kent all the best for the rest of the season and hope to see the boys get some success.
“Division 2 is incredibly competitive. You can score as many runs as you like but unless you take 20 wickets, you won’t get maximum points. The top-three sides have been knocking teams over and have depth in their bowling unit.”
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