For Kent Cricket’s High Performance Director, Simon Willis the future of the Club is looking good in the long term. Since Paul Farbrace’s departure as Director of Cricket at the end of last season, Willis has been instrumental, prior to Jimmy Adams’ arrival as Head Coach at the start of February.
Now Adams is in place, Willis can concentrate on his role with the Academy, but admitted it has been a rewarding time working with the senior players over the past five months: “It’s been a busy winter until Jimmy arrived in February. There has been plenty going on with a new group of players. Before Christmas it was all about knowing where the players were at as individuals. Since Christmas we have been building on that information, working on the areas we feel appropriate for the guys to gain confidence.”
Willis is now back doing what he does best at Kent, and that’s finding new talent from around the county and beyond, whilst nurturing the talent within the Academy system: “In the last few weeks, the Academy group have started going into their age group squads and that gives me a chance to see them against players of a similar age.
“I’ve been out and about and I’ve been encouraged, particularly for the Under 15 age group down as it looks like we’ve got a lot of depth in our playing resources. It’s all looking exciting for the future.”
Cricket at Kent isn’t just about the men’s side, and the recent England Ladies tour to New Zealand featured the likes of Charlotte Edwards, Susie Rowe and Tammy Beaumont, all from the county.
With this in mind, Willis emphasised the importance for clubs like Kent to make sure it was offering equal opportunity to ladies wanting to progress in the game: “Women’s cricket in the county has flourished and that’s why we’ve got five ladies in the national team. They are great role models foe those in the system to aspire to be like.
“On the Academy, we’ve got Deanna Cooper who recently got picked for the England Academy tour to South Africa, which is a great reward as she’s worked really hard to achieve that goal.
“We’ve also got Alice Davidson-Richards who’s young and full of potential, but unfortunately got an injury that’s put her back a little bit. They’re both talented young ladies and I’m hoping there will be a few more this summer for selection onto the Academy in the winter.”
The appointment of Adams as Head Coach is one which has brought renewed optimism around the county and Willis believes he will be working closely with the Jamaican over the coming years to produce players for Kent: “Jimmy being Head Coach and myself being High Performance Director, we talk about a lot of stuff. His role is different to Paul’s (Farbrace) as he will mostly concentrate on the first team.
"He has got his priorities, although he has been along to a couple of sessions and had a look at some of the youngsters coming through. Over time, I am sure we will talk to see what he can do to help with helping those guys develop further.”
With the new season just weeks away, Willis spends a lot of time on the road looking at players across the county and is keen to see them back playing on grass: “It’s all about getting out there and finding the next crop of young players out there and that’s something that I really enjoy doing.
“The reward will be if some young guys break through into the first team and that’s what we’re aiming for in the long term.”
Simon Willis was speaking to Steve Wolfe of KSN