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March 30, 2012
George Dobell : We underestimate county cricket at our peril
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Players/Officials: Jimmy Adams
When Jimmy Adams arrived in Britain, the country was gripped by a cold snap that brought snow to the garden of England. With the mercury having jumped 15 degrees, Adams declared t-shirt weather for his first day as Kent's new head coach.
His task is to raise the temperature among Kent supporters. Kent have slumped from title-contenders at the turn of the century to second-bottom of the pile last season: the third-worst finish in their history.
Charged with reviving one of the most famous counties, Adams is unconcerned about what has gone before. "There is lot of history here," he said. "But I'm sure every county would gladly roll out the history books. A lot of fantastic players have come through this club; I wouldn't use that to burn the players."
Adams plays up to all the stereotypical impressions of a laid-back West Indian as he slumps against a wall inside Kent's indoor school, but it belies a determination to get things done. "I've got to get stuck in, nose to the ground," he said. "There's a lot of work to be done - in a good sense - we'll try to construct something here that will hopefully bring us results."
The environment and culture around the squad is something that Adams seems keen on, getting the values and discipline right to be able to get a young squad working for each other. This focus endeared him to Kent chief executive, Jamie Clifford, during a three-month recruitment process to replace Paul Farbrace, who has since moved on to Yorkshire's coaching staff.
"Jimmy is quite big on culture. He's got a very clear idea about how he wants the cricket part of the club to run which is what we wanted: a clear sense of direction," Clifford said. "He is coming into this role fresh, he's never had a county role, so we've got the chance to freshen it up. Jimmy stood out from what was a very strong shortlist; there were some guys on there with quite strong coaching pedigree and big names in the world of cricket."
Having survived a thorough recruitment process involving psychometric testing and independent interviewers, Adams has the chance to make his name in coaching with his first major role. He had been technical director for Jamaica, a role Adams describes as "a bit of everything" with all the cricket programmes running through his desk. He thinks that all-encompassing experience will lend itself well to county cricket. "At this stage in my life I've mixed it pretty much with every age group over a period of time," Adams said. "There a lot of talent here but I'm just happy that we have lads that seem to want to get better individually and would like to be a part of a successful team. Once that attitude is there, it makes my job a lot easier, instead of trying to push people you're trying to hold them back."
Kent's squad has undergone significant change with Joe Denly departing for Middlesex and Martin van Jaarsveld retiring. Mark Davies, Ben Harmison, Charlie Shreck and Mike Powell have all arrived. But the man who Adams says everything revolves around has been at Kent for 24 years: captain Rob Key. His experience and leadership will give Adams the chance to focus on developing Kent's crop of youngsters - including England Under-19 captain Adam Ball and batsman Daniel Bell-Drummond - than immediate results.
"There are a lot of intangibles when you talk about the game of cricket," Adams said. "The opposition might just outplay you totally but in that three or four days you might have made progress along the way, depending on the players that you have."
Kent begin their new season at Headingley against Yorkshire, who were relegated from Division One of the championship last season and who are strong favourites to bounce back immediately. Faced with such a stern opening assignment, Adams' reduced emphasis on winning from the start might yet prove advantageous.
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