Published: 06:00, 16 September 2021
| Updated: 07:47, 16 September 2021
Kent Spitfires head coach Matt Walker believes it is crucial his players focus on matters on the field rather than the occasion at T20 finals day.
Walker top-scored in the 2007 final for Kent when the Spitfires beat Gloucestershire, and will hope to win it as a coach this year.
The 47-year-old says staying calm will be key with the Spitfires aiming to beat Sussex Sharks in their semi-final. Either Hampshire Hawks or Somerset await in the final.
He feels the players who have not played for Kent on a finals day - all except Darren Stevens and Joe Denly from the current playing squad - will never be completely mentally prepared for the occasion until they have experienced it.
But he claims Kent have no reason to doubt themselves after beating Birmingham Bears by 21 runs in the quarter-final.
“You need to stay calm," he stated. "It is one of those classic cliches where you take the occasion away and try to play the game. It's very difficult to do. That is the biggest challenge of it all.
“Those that can cope with it the most will probably be the most successful.
“I think they are ready in that there is no reason to doubt themselves. We won the group. We convincingly beat Birmingham.
“So the confidence we take from that, and the confidence from winning some County Championship games in the last couple of weeks, means there is no reason for them to doubt themselves.
“But it's a very different day. It's almost sometimes just worth addressing the fact that it's a big occasion. I know this group is ready and excited for it.”
Walker reckons a first taste of silverware for his young squad could be the catalyst for more silverware.
“This group should be in a position where they are challenging to win,” he said.
“We are now in the final throes of the competition and, if we do win, I think it's a huge step in the right direction for the confidence of this group for the next three or four years.”
All-rounder Stevens, now 45, missed out on a spot in the Spitfires side for the quarter-final but will hope to be involved at Edgbaston.
New Zealander fast bowler Adam Milne has headed to the Indian Premier League but spinner Qais Ahmad, originally from Kabul, may yet be involved despite ongoing personal issues in his native Afghanistan. He ended with 2-13 from four overs in Kent’s quarter-final.
Walker explained: “With Qais, we are not sure. Everything is a bit up in the air with his life at the moment, as you can imagine.
“The very fact he made himself available for our quarter-final - you talk about pride and complete humanity, and I was completely blown away that he wanted to play the game but also how well he performed with everything that is going on around him.
“Words don’t really express what that meant to the group.
“So we are not sure - it's an ongoing daily thing.”