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Kent head coach Matt Walker urges team to be fearless in Division 1

Kent head coach Matt Walker has urged his young team to play without fear on the club’s return to Division 1 after eight years.

The county underlined their top flight credentials in 2018 by winning a Division 2-high 10 games as well as reaching the Royal London One Day Cup final against Hampshire at Lord’s.

It’s for their lengthy absence among the country’s top sides that Kent enter the new County Championship season as something of an ominous threat.

Kent head coach Matt Walker
Kent head coach Matt Walker

Walker said: “I know players have real ambition to play in Division 1.

“We don’t want to make it this big bad world that seems so far away from us.

“We have earned the right to get here, we’ve beaten some very good Division 2 sides over the last two or three seasons.

“I think we should be the ones people are looking at as an unknown quantity.

“Sides haven’t played against us for a long time in four-day cricket and actually we know a lot of these sides very well from our one-day games over the years. It’s not like we’re going into a brand new world.

“Everyone’s aware of the challenge, but I want to go in knowing we’re here to be beaten and the ones really going in on the front foot.

“Essex did it, they came up and won it. It’s not unheard of.”

Ambition may be high among this promising group, but Kent are under no illusions regarding the value of setting off as they mean to go on.

Walker added: “It’s important. If you can start with a bit of a flourish that really settles the nerves and gives people the belief that we can live in this competition, but it will be a challenge.

“The message we’re trying to get through to the lads this year is that it will be a challenge but that we’re here to compete and to win the competition.

“Realistically, can we do that? We’ll find out come the end of the season.

“We’re not going in to survive and play safe cricket, we’re going in to win games and show what we can do and I think we have the squad to do that.”

One obstacle that potentially beckons in a competitive Division 1 is the difficulty in replicating the largely unwavering form Kent displayed throughout last year.

It promises to be a test of not only the team’s quality, but also their resilience.

Walker said: “Last year we won more games than any county in the country, we never really had a blip throughout the season.

“We started the competition with a loss in the championship and then never really looked back. We lost the first two games in Royal London and never looked back, we lost the odd game during the T20 but always bounced back with a win.

“We never had that sustained period of loss, which might be a challenge if it comes along this year in terms of how we deal with that.

“I think if we start well and get ourselves off with a win it will settle everyone down.”

Kent get their County Championship season under way against Somerset at Taunton tomorrow (Friday).

Read more: The latest sports news in Kent

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