When Graham Gooch decided that his role as England batting coach would occupy an increasing amount of his time and thus force him to give up a similar position with his beloved Essex, the county wasted little time in targeting his replacement.
Matt Walker is the man chosen to join the coaching staff and the former Kent batsman, who has spent the last three years with Essex as a player, could not have been more delighted.
“Although Goochie was batting coach, my actual role is now assistant coach to Paul Grayson but I’ll be focussing on batting together with the fielding,” said Walker. “We already have an excellent bowling coach in Chris Silverwood who is doing a fantastic job bringing on the young bowlers.”
Walker, who will be 38 next month, played for Kent from 1993 until being released in 2008 but was immediately snapped up by Essex. His contract was due for renewal at the end of the 2011 season but the county had already earmarked him for a development role on their staff.
“I initially spoke to Paul (Grayson) midway through last season about my playing contract and he said that there might be the possibility of a coaching role,” added Walker. “Then, later on, it became a real possibility and he and Fozzie (James Foster) spoke to me and offered me the job.
“They were really keen to get me on board and I was blown away to be offered the role. At this stage of my career, it really is a no-brainer and I was chuffed that they feel I am capable of achieving what they wanted. It is very flattering. It obviously fills you with confidence and makes you feel valued.
“I’m really excited about the prospect. We’ve got a young squad at Essex with a number of exciting and talented players coming through. Although I’ll still be registered as a player for next season, I’m happy to stop playing to concentrate on this change in direction in my career.
“The eyes are still good and I’m sure I could do a job if needed but I’m content that this is the right time to move on and start the new chapter in my career. Last year I had a few niggling injuries which I’d never really had before and it was almost as if someone was trying to tell me something – probably that I would be another year older in 2012 and it might just be a year too far!”
Essex head coach Grayson is delighted to have Walker alongside him. “I’m really looking forward to working with Matt, as the coaching job I have is no longer a one-man operation,” he said. “Matt is hugely respected by all the players in our dressing room. He knows the game inside out and he’ll be a real asset to our coaching staff.”