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Kent head coach Matt Walker refuses to set specific goals for his team with 2024 season upon the horizon

Kent head coach Matt Walker reckons there is a freshness to the squad ahead of the new season - but won’t set the side any specific targets.

Having narrowly avoided relegation on the final day, Walker’s team will again play red-ball cricket in County Championship Division 1 and begin their season against Somerset at Canterbury’s Spitfire Ground from tomorrow.

Kent coach Matt Walker - won’t be setting specific targets for his team during the 2024 season. Picture: Keith Gillard
Kent coach Matt Walker - won’t be setting specific targets for his team during the 2024 season. Picture: Keith Gillard

There have been plenty of changes at Kent over this winter.

Simon Cook has started as director of cricket, batsman Daniel Bell-Drummond is their new captain and bowlers Matt Parkinson, Michael Cohen and George Garrett have been added to the squad, as well as overseas Australian quick bowlers Wes Agar and Xavier Bartlett for the first half of the summer.

Spitfires had enjoyed recent success in both one-day competitions, although they didn’t fare so well last year.

“It’s about being as competitive as we possibly can,” said Walker. “Last year, it was a bit of a challenge around that, with the make-up of some of the teams that we had to put out on the field.

“There was the introduction of a couple of young players but some challenging periods without our best team on the park, which can happen.

“But the squad we have built now - with Cooky coming in as director of cricket, Daniel as captain and two new support coaches (Toby Radford and Robbie Joseph) - there’s a sense of freshness. There’s a real sense of anticipation around the group.

“We have brought in three new domestic players, plus Jaydn (Denly) who is a young player, coming on the staff. I think we feel well-set and we have got a squad that can really compete and put ourselves in positions to challenge in games.

“It was quite hard to do that last year at times. We had to almost think on our feet a bit and just deal with what came our way.

“But all being well, if we keep a fit squad this year, and if we play with a sense of fun, real energy and a real competitiveness, we can challenge.

“There’s no sort of end goal. It’s game-by-game. It’s a bit of a football cliche but there’s no prediction, there’s no ‘We are going to do this in this competition.’

“For every game, we will turn up and look to be as competitive as we can.”

Walker admits winning the County Championship crown remains “the dream” for him and his side.

While some of their divisional rivals have more financial power, Walker thinks the togetherness Kent’s squad can form helps give them a fighting chance against those teams.

When asked if winning County Championship Division 1 remained a realistic aim, he replied: “Everyone wants it, of course they do.

“It’s been my ambition since I joined the staff in 1993 to win the Championship and I’ve gone close on a number of occasions.

“That’s the dream, of course it is, but I think we have got to take that out of the picture. It’s such a long season of 14 games, finishing in September. So much can go on in between.

“All we’re trying to do is be as competitive as we can. We know we have got a squad - on any given day - if we get our best cricketers on the park for the most part, we can beat the best sides.

“We’ve got to be more consistent, do it over and over again, and take our chances when it comes along to beat these sides.

“Of course, we haven’t got the wealth and the depth of the squad compared to some. For sure, the Test-match ground (clubs) are extremely powerful now. Last year, I think we felt a shift in that even more in terms of what those sides were doing in their winter recruitment.

“But we know, with the group of players, and the culture we can build, that’s the added bit we can use to our advantage. That’s why we have punched above our weight for a long time.

“This group can really be competitive with the culture we can bring and the togetherness we can have in this squad which, hopefully, gives us that edge against some of these bigger sides that don’t necessarily have that and rely on their superstars to do the work.

“That’s why it’s important that this year is all about the team and being together, being as competitive as we can and keeping ourselves tight as a unit.

“We will fight hard, as we always try and do, knowing we have got a squad that can compete in every single game - however that looks - and we will see what happens.”

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