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Some of Kent’s squad to prepare for start of 2024 pre-season programme with training camp in Mumbai, India

Some of Kent’s squad are set to train in India ahead of the start of the 2024 season.

While the bulk of the first team will be playing cricket overseas before they join up for pre-season training from Monday, March 11, a small group of the county’s remaining players will head to Mumbai at the end of February.

Bowler Nathan Gilchrist – is expected to be among the Kent contingent heading to Mumbai later this month. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Bowler Nathan Gilchrist – is expected to be among the Kent contingent heading to Mumbai later this month. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Bowler Nathan Gilchrist is expected to be among those involved.

“It’s sort of grown,” explained Kent head coach Matt Walker on the India trip.

“It started as an opportunity to try and get a couple of lads out there - as the Academy have done in the past - to have a 10-day spin camp down in Mumbai, where we can really focus on improving a couple of guys in that department.

“Word got around, peoples’ ears pricked up and they enquired about it, which is great.

“It started out being only two or three - but, now, six or seven of the lads will go out there.

Kent’s faith in Finch

“What you get is a real intensive period of cricket where you can bat for hours. A couple of bowlers are going, as well, and you make it what you want.

“There’s net bowlers queuing up to bowl at you and coaches out there to help out.

“It’s a great opportunity, especially for those that haven’t been away this winter, to get outside, get a bit of grass cricket before pre-season starts and get a bit of sun. It gets you out of the indoor school and builds up that work before we get outside in Canterbury.

“Unfortunately, we cannot afford a full-scale pre-season trip this year. It’s the next best thing, really, trying to give these guys the opportunity to go out and play somewhere around the world before pre-season starts.

“Weather-wise, you don’t know what you will get when pre-season starts but, with the volume they will get from that trip, hopefully, they will be in a good place for when they do come back. It’ll be a later start because of that reason, really.

Kent head coach Matt Walker. Picture: Keith Gillard
Kent head coach Matt Walker. Picture: Keith Gillard

“We try to keep them out overseas if we can, rather than coming back indoors. Hopefully, everyone will have had some cricket outside by the time pre-season comes around.”

Among those no longer with Kent is big-hitting Alex Blake, who left alongside spinner James Logan at the end of last season, which brought Blake’s 17-year association with Kent to an end.

Blake graduated from the Academy in 2007 and made 343 appearances for Kent across all formats overall.

Now 35, Blake was part of the victorious T20 squads in 2007 and 2021, and was a regular in the side that won the 2022 One-Day Cup.

Walker admitted: “They’re some of the worst days in the job, really, when you say farewell to people like Blakey.

“He has been around since a really young age. He was with Kent as a schoolboy and has gone all the way through.

“It’s been a tough few years. We all know his ability and what he has done, especially in the short-form game. He’s explosive, exciting, and a brilliant fielder.

“When he’s on the pitch, he does things that other people cannot do. I’ve witnessed that on a number of occasions where you’re left with your mouth wide open as he wins games from nowhere. But he found his position under threat and had a couple of injuries.

“People have challenged that position and nipped in ahead of him. Unfortunately, when you sign a white-ball contract and you’re not getting in that squad, it makes it very difficult to keep him. It’s a shame.

“It’s disappointing because we know what a good player he is, was, and still could be. It’s just not quite happened for him over the last couple of seasons.

“With a budget that’s decreasing every year, you have to use that money as wisely as you can, really. I think he’ll probably admit he hasn’t really fulfilled his potential in the last few seasons and not played as well as he would have liked.

“In 2021, we decided to go a different route at times and it worked that year. Last year, again, at times, we decided to go with a different route (in the T20s) that left him out of the side. It became harder for him to get back in the team.

“But I said to him at the time that we’ve just got to look back on those great moments and thank him for his contributions over the years.

“He has been a big part of this group and will be missed.”

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