December 10 2013 Latest news:
By Greg Miles
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Kent coach Simon Willis proud of youngsters
It will be a proud day for everyone involved with Kent Cricket Club on August 11.
While some will be focusing on the following day’s fixture against Derbyshire in the CB40, most will be wondering just how the county’s young proteges Adam Ball, and Daniel Bell-Drummond are faring in the Under-19 Cricket World Cup in Australia.
Both will be key members of the squad, which Ball is captain of, and Bell-Drummond the star batsman.
One man sure to have a proud smile on his face is head of the county’s high performance programme Simon Willis who as well as other staff, has overseen their development.
“It’s a proud day for everyone,” he said. “There are a lot of people involved in their development - we wish them all the best.
“Kent has always been a county that’s wanted to produce players for international age groups. We’ve got a good track record as nationally we’ve had a number at under 19 level going back to Rob Key who was one of our earliest ones.”
What’s all the more pleasing is that those two are not the first to have emerged from Willis’ setup. In recent years Joe Denly and Paul Dixey have made the big breakthrough.
And the list doesn’t stop there with the likes of Sam Northeast, Adam Riley, Sam Billings, Chris Piesley, Matt Coles and Alex Blake being called upon for first team duties, having all been under the eye of Willis.
Willis believes it can be a bright future for the first team if those youngsters can be persuaded to stick around.
“All the time they have success other counties are going to be interested,” he said. “We need to keep this group together, there’s a group that could play together for ten years plus.
“All I can do is produce too many players and when they get into the first team environment Jimmy (Adams) and Keysey (Rob Key) can allow them to continue their growth. It’s down to them to take those opportunites at first team level.”
He praised Adams’ approach to the second team setup and for giving the youngsters a chance when they’ve proven worthy.
“It’s very easy I must say,” he said. “He’s shown good interest in what’s underneath. Our relationship is going forwards in a positive way, he’s very passionate about the game and he wants young players to be developed through the county system.”
He pinpointed a number of small changes in recent years which have made a big difference in preparing players for the step up.
“I set myself three years to put an infrastructure in place to bring a few lads through and we are about getting to that stage,” he said. “I’m very happy with how things are moving forward since I started in October 2009.
“It was subtle changes rather than revolutionary ideas, raising people’s awareness of what’s at first class level. The bar was a bit low before.”
While he is happy players have played on merit, he admits there has been more of a chance in recent years because of the financial state of the club.
“The club has gone through a successful period, between 2005 and 2009, when there was less opportunity, but in recent years they’ve played their part because of the needs of the county.
“If we are realistic there has been a financial angle to it, the club has been through tough times, it’s created opportunities but once players got in they took their oppopirtnities - Adam Ball played every game he was available for last year.
“The big step is when you get onto the professional staff, it can be quite a big step for some guys, you’ve got to have the character and mental strength to deal with it.”
•England get their campaign underway against defending champions Australia on August 11, and then take on Ireland the following day before their final game against Nepal on August 16.