Kent’s director of cricket Paul Farbrace and leading all-rounder Darren Stevens agree that having a fit and fully-firing Robbie Joseph back on board this summer will be like making a new signing for the cash-strapped county.
The Antigua-born pace bowler has struggled with injuries throughout his career, never more so than during an injury-plagued 2010 campaign during which he made only one County Championship appearance.
Joseph, now 29, is beginning to see light at the end of his dark injury tunnel and Farbrace and Stevens cannot wait to see him taking the new ball once again.
“I can tell you Robbie’s desperate to play and has worked really hard,” said Farbrace. “It’s been really tough on him as I know a few of our supporters have turned on him at times and given him stick, saying he doesn’t work hard enough and isn’t that worried if he doesn’t play.
“He is so much further on fitness-wise than he was at this stage last year having bowled outdoors for his few weeks in Perth. If he is fit for the first or second game of the season he will be like a new signing because he’s not played that much for the best part of two years.
“I know we’ve lost Amjad Khan to Sussex, which we hoped wouldn’t happen, but if we can get RJ fully fit and firing then it will compensate in some way for losing Amjad.”
In echoing his coach’s sentiments, Stevens, who has spent much of the winter playing for New Zealand district side Otago, said: “As things stand, I think we are a bowler missing, so we need RJ and Azhar Mahmood to stay fit.
“Azhar is looking nice and sharp and if those two can get involved regularly, then it will be fantastic for the team. I got quite a few overs under my belt last year and I think it will be the same again this year.”
Stevens, Joseph, Mahmood and the rest of the squad have started their strength and conditioning drills in Canterbury, but are travelling to Dubai for the second part of pre-season training.
Explaining the county’s 11th hour switch to the United Arab Emirates, chief executive Jamie Clifford said: “We had hoped to prepare at Canterbury, but weather conditions have not allowed ground preparations to advance to a stage where meaningful practice would be possible.
“While finances are extremely tight, it is vital that our players are well prepared for the coming season. With fantastic support from the Dubai end, particularly from Rod Marsh, I have confidence that this will be a sound investment.”
Farbrace added: “Knowing with certainty we will get good weather and excellent practice facilities means we should achieve a great deal in the time we are away.”