Denly and Tredwell on the up
Despite Kent having the threat of relegation over them for much of last summer, two of their number were chosen to benefit from the England Performance Programme this winter.
Opener Joe Denly and off-spinning all-rounder James Tredwell were selected for the scheme which involved some high-intensity fitness training at the National Performance Centre based at Loughborough University, and a four-week tour of India.
Tredwell was part of the 2003/04 intake of what was then called the academy, and went on to captain that squad in Alex Gidman’s absence with injury.
At that time, the Academy was focused on up-and-coming players, but it has recently been rebranded to help prepare an England second string for a senior call-up at any time.
“Last time there were a lot of group sessions. This time it was a lot more catered to the individual,” Tredwell told ecb.co.uk.
“We have been left to our own devices to work with the individual coaches or on our own aspects of our games. That was the real change.”
And Tredwell has seen it pay dividends, especially with his fielding, which is often an overlooked area of a cricketer’s education.
“The main thing to come out of it was the fielding - all aspects of it - catching, fielding, the works,” he admitted.
“It has made us all at the top level as opposed to being just a good level. We have made strides as a squad and as individual cricketers.”
Denly agreed that the benefits of the programme far outweigh the early mornings and gruelling intensity.
“If I can perform at this level, which I am sure I can, and I’m going into each game with 100 per cent belief, then it is just one step closer to getting selected for England,” Denly told ecb.co.uk.
The opening batsman secured his place in Kent’s top order last season and admitted that his call-up to the England Lions squad that summer came as a surprise.
“This year, the season just gone, was all about cementing my place in the Kent side,” he said. “With the good start I had there were a few whispers that I might get selected, but I was just focusing on my Kent job.”
Two years ago Denly was playing for England Under-19, and believes that his performances at age-group level and the EPP selection stand him in good stead for a future international career.
“Being part of the ECB youth set-up helps a lot,” he said. “Performing in India when we went out there probably didn’t do any harm.
“Each one is a stepping stone closer to playing for the England senior side. It is one step at a time.”
Denly returned to India with the EPP this winter, scoring 55 and 38 in England’s 111-run win over an MRF XI.
Tredwell also played his part in the tour victories, taking 3-24 in the first game and 3-45 in the second as he made the most of spin-friendly sub-continent wickets.
“I went to India in pre-season last year and made a few tinkering changes to my bowling action,” Tredwell said.
“I got a few points from other spin bowlers over there and changed a few things, which seem to have worked.”
But it is not just his bowling that Tredwell has been working on. After scoring his maiden first-class century last summer he is keen to increase his batting skills too.
“My main goal is to make myself a genuine all-rounder so that there is no reason why I can’t play in any particular game,” he said.
“Whether it be a seam-friendly wicket, I still want to be able to hold my own and make runs - certainly in the middle-order or maybe higher.
“The last year has seen a real jump forward in my batting. Hopefully I can carry on going forward. The hundred this year was a big step towards that.”
Denly, too, is keen to keep his batting going forward, adding: “I had a look at my dismissals from the summer and worked out my weaknesses and my strengths.
“If someone had said to me at the beginning of the year, ‘you are going to score just under 1,000 runs and average this much’ - 41, I think it was - then I would have taken it.
“I’m a bit disappointed not to have got 1,000 runs, but I am happy overall.”
The squad have now returned from India for a well-deserved and much-needed break.
Denly summed up the EPP experience, saying: “It was quite a gruelling few weeks, but it can only stand you in good stead. It was no surprise that it was a lot of hard work.”