An email conversation with Rob Key: 'Captaincy keeps you going during boring bits on the field'

Enjoying title race with safety assured; Championing Kent's Twenty20 ability; The joys of wintering with 'Ugly Betty'
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The Independent Online

Last week's 10-wicket win over Hampshire sealed your survival in the First Division with a match to spare. Relieved? It was a big weight off our minds. We've had a good year in Twenty20 – and all the luck we needed – but in the Championship nothing has gone our way. We felt we were in a bit of a false position. We were done by Mushie [Sussex's Mushtaq Ahmed] early on, then ran into [Durham's] Steve Harmison at his best; we dominated against Warwickshire but were denied by the weather, and then there was Worcester...

At least that game against Worcestershire is not going to cost you now (after New Road was flooded in July, the hosts refused Kent's request to move the game before the ECB ordered it to be replayed, only to then reverse the decision)? It was still an absolute débâcle. It was ridiculous how we got stitched up by Worcester and the ECB. It was a farce, but at least something like that shouldn't happen again.

The Championship seems to be getting ever more competitive. Yeah, credit to the people who came up with two divisions. The cricket is so intense. I've found it really tough this year as captain – every bonus point counts and you're always keeping an eye elsewhere, coming off the field and checking Teletext, or trying to hedge your bets when it comes to declarations.

Who is going to win it? It's great for the game that it's going into the last week. Part of me thinks the script is written for Durham, but Lancashire do look good. They've been the best side we've met this year – Murali [Muttiah Muralitharan] at Old Trafford: that's tough. It seems anyone can beat anyone – Sussex are strong, so are Yorkshire, with Goughie going well. It's a tough division.

How have you found captaincy? I've really enjoyed it this year. Last year was poor and I was worried – you start to think the captaincy might affect your batting. But I've proved it hasn't. I like captaincy – it keeps you going through the boring bits on the field! It has made me a bit tougher but, hopefully, it's not changed me as a person. It's still all about enjoying the game.

How do you deal with dropping players? You have to be bold enough to tell them honestly why they've been dropped. It can be difficult; I had to leave out Neil Dexter when he was doing fine, but the guy he'd replaced was fit again. You have to be straight.

How was it collecting your first trophy as Kent captain when you won the Twenty20 last month? Amazing. What a feeling. It was a great day, but because it was in the middle of the season you don't really have time to enjoy it. We still had a good time in the hotel that night.

Any Flintoffesque celebrations? Simon Willis and I did stay up till 7am and went straight to breakfast. It was a victory for the old crowd – all the youngsters had gone to bed.

Does it disappoint you that there are no players from the Twenty20 champions in the England squad for the World Twenty20? It disappoints me as a county captain when a third-choice spinner from Leicestershire [Jeremy Snape] gets in the squad ahead of someone like James Tredwell. He bats, bowls, catches and fields well, but the guy they go with doesn't get in a second division Championship side.

What about your England ambitions? I haven't seen a selector for a couple of years. I still want to play, but I didn't get the runs last year. This season I'm as pleased with my batting as ever, but I've got the captaincy to concentrate on, so I don't dwell on England. There's no time: if you're not out on the field, you're in meetings, or trawling websites for overseas players.

You scored a double hundred for England at Lord's against West Indies in 2004 – describe the moment. It's actually the nineties I remember the most – I hadn't scored a century for England and when I got to 92 I got really nervous. The 100 seemed a mile away. Then I got two balls to hit back to back and I was there. It was the best feeling, to do it at Lord's for England... hopefully, there will be more.

Alec Stewart is credited for helping your career get on to the right track after early problems. What did he say to you? It was at the PCA (Professional Cricketers' Association) end of season dinner. I was a young guy and sort of planning to spend the winter in London with my mates, having a laugh, getting pissed. Stewie told me to go to Perth and play cricket. I followed his advice and that's where I met "Noddy" Holder, Justin Langer's batting coach. He has been my security blanket as a cricketer. I'll probably be back in Perth this winter to see him.

Which young players have stood out for you this season? Joe Denly has done well opening for us. He has serious ability – look at the 100 he made against a Hampshire attack with (Shane) Warne, (Chris) Tremlett and (Stuart) Clark. He shouldn't be rushed, but he is a potential international. Another Kent player, Ryan McLaren, could be an England all-rounder when he qualifies. Hampshire's David Balcombe, who played against us last week, looks decent as well.

Are you off on holiday after the season? Spend more time in hotels? I'm staying home to spend time with my wife and one-year-old daughter. You'll find me sitting in front of the telly.

What will you be watching? Ugly Betty. I'm forced to watch it by my wife.

Attachment

* Name Rob Key.

* Age 28.

* County Kent.

* Tests 15; 775 runs at an average of 31. Highest score: 221 v West Indies, Lord's, 2004.

* ODIs Five; 54 runs at 10.8. Highest score: 19 v West Indies, Lord's 2004.

* First-class career 174 games, 11,864 runs at 41.9. Highest score: 221. 100s: 35.

* This season LV County Championship player of the month for August: carried bat for 75 against Surrey. Made 153 against Warwickshire, 125 against Worcestershire and 182 against Lancashire. Season: 14 matches, 23 innings, 1,214 runs at 60.7.

* Other Won Under-19 World Cup in 1999; made Test debut against India at Trent Bridge in 2002, making 17; played four Tests on 2002-03 Ashes tour, making a fifty in Melbourne.

Has not played for England since 2004-05 tour to South Africa.

Appointed Kent captain in 2006 and has captained England A.

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