Heino Kuhn to stand in as Kent captain in absence of Sam Billings and Joe Denly

Heino Kuhn swings hard through the off side Getty Images

Heino Kuhn has been named interim captain of Kent and Daniel Bell-Drummond interim vice-captain while regular team leaders Sam Billings and Joe Denly play in the IPL.

Kuhn, 34, joined Kent last season on a Kolpak deal and played an important part in the county's promotion to Division One, scoring 780 runs in the campaign, including six half-centuries and a best of 96 not out in a successful run-chase against Leicestershire. Prior to that, he played four Tests for South Africa in 2017 and seven T20Is from 2009-2017.

Kent head coach Matt Walker said the temporarily vacant captaincy role had raised debate among backroom staff torn between choosing an experienced candidate or giving a younger player the opportunity to step up, but he was comfortable with the decision, especially as the appointment of 25-year-old Bell-Drummond satisfied the latter criteria.

"Speaking to Heino, I wasn't quite sure whether he was going to want to do it, having only been here for a year, but he was very much up for it felt very honoured to be asked," Walker said. "He felt he'd got to know the guys very well last year.

"It's the obvious choice in many ways in terms of his experience, international quality, the boys respect him hugely, the way he goes about his day-to-day business as a professional cricketer everyone respects very highly, he's a great example in lots of ways.

"I don't think it will raise any concerns amongst the group. We could have gone a bit more of a left-field route and really thrown someone the gauntlet for this small period but I think we're in safer hands in that way with Heino."

Regular Kent captain Billings will play for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, with vice-captain Denly Kolkata turning out for Kolkata Knight Riders. The tournament begins on Saturday and runs until May 5. Depending on whether both or either are selected for England's World Cup campaign, starting on May 30, Kent's interim captaincy arrangements could continue beyond the IPL.

Kent have recruited Australian batsman Matt Renshaw for their first overseas player stint. He will play the first three County Championship matches and the Royal London Cup, after which time Kent will look to recruit a fast bowler for the remainder of the county season.

Kent Director of Cricket Paul Downton said: "He's played 11 Tests for Australia, he's had a little bit of a dip in form but he's fighting his way back into it. We expect him to be on the Australian A tour, he'd like to be on the Ashes tour, so I think he'll be very keen and hungry for runs. He's a left-hander, which in the top order looks very good. He'll probably bat No.3 for us but he'll give us some quality and class in the top order when you're missing Joe and Sam."

Walker agreed that Renshaw's desire to impress Australian selectors would be an asset.

"When you sign younger players, someone who's on the fringes of a Test selection, you have that hunger, you have that energy, he'll fit into a very young dressing room as well," Walker said. "We quite like that dynamic that we've got a hungry young player coming to really prove himself."

Walker said it was important for Kent to start the County season well, having returned to Division One for the first time in eight season this year.

"If you can start with a bit of a flourish that really settles the nerves and gives people, I suppose, belief that we can live in this competition but it will be a challenge," Walker said.

"The message that we're trying to get through to the lads this year is that it will be a challenge, however, we're here to really compete, we're here to win it, win the competition. Realistically can we do it? Well, we'll find out, come the end of the season, I suspect. But we're not going in to survive and we're not going in to play safe cricket, we want to win games of cricket and show what we can do. I think we've got the squad to be able to do that."