Long and short of it
Ian Ward wonders if Graham Ford's Kent side can transfer their one-day form to the four-day format.
Last Updated: 10/05/09 3:05pm
Sometimes when you do well in one-day cricket you can get on a roll in the longer form of the game - but the opposite happened for Kent last year.
They had a tremendous season in limited overs cricket yet found themselves relegated to Division Two.
They reached the final of the FP Trophy, made it to Twenty20 Finals Day at The Rose Bowl and only missed out on promotion in the Pro 40 League thanks to defeat against Essex.
It is impossible to explain the contrast in their fortunes, but I just wonder whether or not those losses took their toll on Rob Key's side emotionally, and that is why they lost their way a bit in the County Championship.
I have spoken with Rob about this and he is an interesting example. The Keysie of old would've said he didn't give a stuff about one-day cricket, the Holy Grail for him was the four-day game, the County Championship and then getting into the Test match arena.
That has changed completely and Kent - and indeed their captain - played some stunning one-day stuff last year.
Maybe this year we will see a little more focus on the four-day game, although I do think it is getting harder and harder to nail your colours to the mast in terms of which format you want to concentrate.
Gloucestershire did it in the late 1990's when they decided to go hard at one-day cricket and Sussex have done it as well, but I am not sure it is possible now.
That said, maybe the signing of Stuart Clark in the winter was a sign Kent were leaning that way, although of course he will be with Australia this summer, so won't play much.
Wayne Parnell, the young South African left-armer has come in instead and made a decent start to the season. I am not sure that has the same tactical implications as the signing of Clark, it was more about getting a quality overseas signing in. And they look to have done that, because by all accounts the lad is decent.
But Kent's strength is going to be their batting again. And the top of their batting order in particular, where Key and Joe Denly formed a brilliant partnership last year - the best one-day pairing in the country.
There will always be talk of Key and England - he has a Test match hundred, don't forget - and he will captain England in the World Twenty20, while some say Denly should have joined him. He is certainly a talent, and Key and Denly batting together for Kent and England would make sense.
Those two form the bedrock for the likes of Geraint Jones and Martin Van Jaarsveld to come in and build on. There's no doubt they are a good side and although he won't be ready for the Middlesex game, Amjad Khan's imminent return will only make them stronger.
You might be critical and turn round and say they lack depth in the bowling department and despite James Tredwell's arrival on the scene, it could also be said they lack variety. But you can level that criticism at any other county in the country, except Durham!
I am also looking forward to watching Kent director of cricket Graham Ford work. I have to be honest and say I don't know too much about him, but from what I can gather he is a very relaxed, quiet sort of guy. Again, speaking to Keysie and a few others who have worked with him, they are big, big fans.
He did very well with South Africa and from what I can gather was left frustrated by the fact that the ECB did not move that quickly to replace Peter Moores. He would've been a very strong candidate for the job, I'm sure.
Like I say I do not know a great deal about him, but I have a good feeling about what I see. Watch Kent preparing and they are not running around like headless chickens (the West Indies at Lord's springs to mind) yet they do not have the exact, precise drills that we see England tearing through.
Ford seems to have his side fairly relaxed, but with a quiet assuredness about them and it does seem to work well. They will be hoping it is enough to get them promoted in both the shorter and longer forms of the game, and I would like to think this set of players had its pride dented enough to see that happen.
Relegation in cricket might not carry the same financial implications as it does in football, but even towards the end of my playing days, I noticed the difference. The players are better and the competition is slightly tougher and I would love to see the England selectors paying far more attention to runs and wickets in Division One than they do now - not that it would do Kent much good at the moment!
This FP Trophy game should be a good test for them because if they lose Middlesex will have one win from four and will be out of it.
It will also be a chance for us to have a look at this young Australian opener Phil Hughes. A lot has been said about his signing and I have got to say I couldn't disagree more with the notion that we are helping the Aussies by letting him settle in and bat over here.
I want to see the best players in the world playing in our game, just as you want to see the best footballers in the world play in the Premier League. And it doesn't have to be Australia that benefits. Andrew Strauss will have batted with him and had no better seat in the house to see what he can do.
And how good is it going to do young Billy Godelman at the other hand. I can't tell you how good it was to have the likes of Alec Stewart, Mark Butcher and Saqlain Mushtaq to learn from and ask advice from when I was at Surrey. If we have the best in the world, surely it will make our players better. It has to.
It is the same with Clark. Again, I would rather he were here bowling at our guys being analysed by us than somewhere where we can't see him as easily. I know when I played Test cricket Glenn McGrath made an absolute fool of me, but when I came across him in county cricket again, I knew what to expect and had a plan in place.