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Kent chief executive Simon Storey offers update on second overseas signing, the financial challenges they face and explains why Kent’s first team will not play in Tunbridge Wells this summer

Talks are at “an advanced stage” for Kent to make another overseas signing.

Chief executive Simon Storey revealed the news, as he explained the work the club has done over the winter on Thursday morning.

Kent director of cricket Simon Cook – chief executive Simon Storey has revealed Cook is working hard on a second overseas recruit for the upcoming season. Picture: Kent Cricket
Kent director of cricket Simon Cook – chief executive Simon Storey has revealed Cook is working hard on a second overseas recruit for the upcoming season. Picture: Kent Cricket

With Australian fast bowler Wes Agar set to make a Canterbury comeback for the 2024 season, Storey also praised head coach Matt Walker and the rest of his coaching staff.

He said: “It’s a testament to the culture that Matt Walker and co have created here that a fast bowler of Wes Agar’s calibre actively sought to come back to Kent for another year after impressing in his first English summer.

“Wes is an exciting bowler who made a big difference last season and we’re very pleased to welcome him back to Canterbury until the end of July. He’s also made a big impact for South Australia in the Sheffield Shield this winter.

“Work continues to go on in this area - (director of cricket) Simon Cook is continuing to work on bolstering the men’s squad and talks are in an advanced stage to secure a second overseas recruit for the first part of the season.”

Storey praised the work Simon Cook has done since he replaced the retiring Paul Downton. But he also warned of the financial challenges Kent presently faces to compete.

Australian bowler Wes Agar – is set to make a Canterbury comeback. Picture: Keith Gillard
Australian bowler Wes Agar – is set to make a Canterbury comeback. Picture: Keith Gillard

“I’m delighted with the progress that he’s made in this short time,” said Storey, who added the director of cricket position now includes having oversight on elite women’s and girls’ cricket in Kent.

“Simon is a real driving force for positive change, building on the work done by his predecessor Paul Downton.

“There’s a huge amount of hard and smart work happening, with strategic thinking going on, on and off the field, to enable us to compete at the highest level - not an easy task, given the widening financial gulf between the counties based at grounds hosting The Hundred and international matches and counties such as Kent.

“We rely purely on domestic fixtures for our income.”

Storey also explained why Kent’s first-team squad won’t play competitive cricket at The Nevill Ground, Tunbridge Wells, again this season.

Batsman Daniel Bell-Drummond – has replaced wicketkeeper Sam Billings as club captain ahead of the upcoming campaign. Picture: Keith Gillard
Batsman Daniel Bell-Drummond – has replaced wicketkeeper Sam Billings as club captain ahead of the upcoming campaign. Picture: Keith Gillard

He admitted getting “a number of requests for us to make a return”, albeit the prospect of a red-ball cricket comeback to Tunbridge Wells is becoming increasingly difficult.

Storey said: “We want to support the excellent work that is going on locally which ensures cricket continues to be a thriving sport.

“We’ll continue to take significant men’s Second XI and Kent Women’s fixtures to Tunbridge Wells this summer and the door to an eventual men’s First XI return remains open.

“Standards relating to the players’ and umpires’ facilities continue to rise and the quality of pitches remains key.

“While it’s increasingly difficult to see the return of First XI red-ball cricket to The Nevill, given the ever-rising requirements for first-class venues, first-team white-ball cricket remains a possibility.

“So, while the challenges are not insurmountable, they’re considerable and we’ll need a long-term plan to ensure that the return of men’s First XI to Tunbridge Wells is financially sustainable.

“We also need to ensure that we can re-establish the Tunbridge Wells Festival as a highlight of the cricket and community calendar.

“We have a good relationship with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club, and we’re in regular contact with their leadership.

“Together, we’ll continue to explore our options.”

A new bowling coach - the returning Robbie Joseph - and batting coach Toby Radford have been added to Walker’s new-look backroom staff after Alex Gidman also left his batting coach position for a role with England Women’s team.

Storey noted: “Robbie and Toby are already here working with the players who aren’t currently overseas, and will bring additional skills and support to add to the work that men’s head coach Matt Walker is doing.”

There have been huge changes in captaincy during the close season, as well.

Batsman Daniel Bell-Drummond will lead the team in County Championship Division 1 in 2024 after wicketkeeper Sam Billings, who remains T20 Blast Spitfires skipper, stepped down as club captain at the end of last term. Meanwhile, vice-captain Jack Leaning is in line to skipper Kent’s Metro Bank One-Day Cup squad.

Storey said: “Daniel has enjoyed a terrific career with Kent so far and is highly-respected, both in his home county and across the wider game.

“He’s a shining example of the capabilities of our Talent Pathway in producing excellent cricketers and his progression is an inspiration for youngsters across Kent and our four London Boroughs.

“I’d also like to thank Sam Billings - another product of the Talent Pathway here in Kent - for his hard work as club captain for the last five years.

“It’s great to have Sam remaining as our T20 captain, receiving full backing from Daniel, with his vast experience of playing and captaining T20 sides around the world to great success.

“To complete our captaincy structure, Jack Leaning will be a fantastic vice-captain for Deebs and Sam, as well as provide great leadership for us in the Metro Bank One-Day Cup this year.

“Since joining us in 2020, Jack has been an influential leader, both on and off the field, and these leadership qualities will be vital to his success as vice-captain.

“I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing all three the greatest of success.”

Storey also spoke of his excitement at welcoming Zimbabwe A to Beckenham for a friendly against the 2nds while a West Indian side will face an English First-Class Counties Select XI in a four-day match at the same venue in the days before the first Test between England and the West Indies. Both games will be in July.

“As our flagship ground in South-east London, Beckenham is highly regarded by the ECB and is extremely popular with touring overseas teams,” he said.

“Cricket Australia and the BCCI both held training camps there before last summer’s World Test Championship Final at The Kia Oval and were glowing in their feedback.

“Jackie Hayward is our venue operations manager, and Josh Marden leads the grounds care team. They continue to do a great job.”

Another wide-ranging update from Storey is set to be released soon.

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