Key turns on Kent's critics
Rob Key is used to Kent being written off and remains determined to again prove their doubters wrong.
Even when the Spitfires reached Twenty20 finals day in 2007 they were hardly given a chance of lifting the trophy. However, they saw off Sussex and Gloucestershire to do just that.
Despite reaching this year’s Friends Life t20 quarter-finals and finishing fourth in their Clydesdale Bank 40 group, Key for the first time faces a second consecutive season in Division Two of the LV= County Championship.
The longest-serving captain in county cricket, who took the reins in 2006, is set on contradicting Kent’s critics.
“When you have tough times you’re always going to cop some flack, which is part of being a sportsman,” the 32-year-old told ecb.co.uk. “In a way it’s an exciting time to be a part of it because there is nothing better than proving people wrong.
“When you’re the underdogs and people write you off, it’s not a bad place to be because that’s when we won the Twenty20 final, when no-one gave us a price of winning it even after we got to finals day.
“It’s always a nice place to start off from and all you can do is surprise people, which I definitely feel we’ve got potential to do.”
“We want to turn Kent into one of the best teams in the country again as much as anything,” he added.
“The last couple of years have been really tough, we’ve lost a few players and things like that. We’re very much back to phase one, rebuilding and trying to turn Kent into a force again.
“It’s not going to happen overnight so it’s an exciting time really because it’s almost a new era, with three or four of the senior guys having left but a load of young guys coming through. The potential’s there to do it.”
Like many counties hit by hard financial times, Kent have had to trim their wage bill.
“No-one’s had to take a pay cut, or anything like that, but we lost Amjad Khan,” Key explained. “Financially we had to make some tough calls. You’ve done that now and you’ve now got a squad that you’re going to have to progress through the youth system really.
“The days of signing a Kolpak, getting in overseas players on big, hefty salaries are probably gone for all parties. You’re very much forced to produce your own players, as you always should have been.”
Of those coming through the ranks at Canterbury, Key wants to see the likes of Alex Blake, Matt Coles and Sam Northeast – all at least 21 – meet their potential soon.
“People like Matt Coles. He could go off and play any form of cricket, for England, in IPL, anything really,” Key said of the seamer.
“It’s the same with a lot of the young guys there coming through, they’re coming to an age, the last couple of years they were 18, 19, 20 and just very much young players finding their feet in the game.
“Now you look, you're chatting about the ‘Coles’ and expecting them to perform. If a few of those guys come through and realise the calibre they’ve got then they’re going to be very dangerous cricketers to have in any form of the game.”
While Key hopes Kent’s youngsters will swiftly develop, he knows their batsmen must collectively improve to beat this year’s second-from-bottom championship finish.
Denly’s departure means Key requires a new regular opening partner, with at least a couple of options available to Kent.
“Daniel Bell-Drummond will be around, people like that. You also have Michael Powell. We’ve got some good ideas about the way we’re going to go next year,” he revealed.
“Regardless of losing Joe and Martin van Jaarsveld, we batted pretty poorly as a team last year. You’d like to think that the players that we’ve got can certainly perform a lot better than what we did last year and, if we do that, we’ll hopefully be at the right end of the table.”