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Kent Cricket captain Rob Key says few players in world cricket could have replaced Darren Stevens if he had been banned from the game by ICC

By Alex Hoad

Rob Key says “few players in the world” could have replaced all-rounder Darren Stevens, had he been banned from playing cricket this season.

Kent captain Rob Key. Picture: Barry Goodwin.

With Stevens back in pre-season training with Kent following his exoneration after match-fixing allegations in Bangladesh, newly-reappointed Kent skipper Key hailed his importance with bat and ball.

Key said: “Having Stevo back is great news. Forget about his quality, the way he can balance a side out is huge. You’re always lucky to have an all-rounder of his class. He’s effectively two players in one, regardless of what he can do with the bat and ball.

“Having him makes life a hell of a lot easier and it’s good to offset youth with experience in that middle order. Hopefully, it means we’ll have good balance.”

In Stevens, Key is delighted that Kent have one of the best performers in that position, not just in county cricket but on a far wider scale, available to play.

Key added: “There are few people in world cricket that can do the role as well as he does it. We had no clue what was going to happen, although I had faith in the right decision and justice in theory being done.

“In a way, it was no concern as I had faith in the system that the right thing would happen.”

Key is enthusiastic about his side’s prospects for the season, not least due to the return of his former team-mate Matt Walker to the club as assistant coach.

He said: “It’s been good so far, it’s been fun – one of the better pre-seasons we’ve had.

“The weather has helped a lot but also, we’ve got some real good characters around now – people like Mitch Claydon and some of the guys who have come in.

“The younger lads are a bit more confident, they know the environment a bit more.

“The best thing is Matt Walker has come in and added so much. He’s already got a huge amount of respect among the players and that’s increased. Having him around has been brilliant.

“Bringing him in wasn’t about me... all the talk of players at Essex was about how good he is and how much they valued him.

“I saw the way young players, in particular, hung off his every word. Luckily, he was keen when I made the initial phone call to him.

“He’ll have a good career in coaching wherever he is. He has a natural gift – being able to communicate, a good cricket brain and experience. That’s what you want. We’re lucky to have him.”

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