Sam Northeast‘s future at Kent is in doubt after he was unofficially advised that he would not be reconsidered for the captaincy unless he restated his long-term commitment to the club by extending a contract which expires at the end of next season.
Northeast’s strained relationship with Kent, first revealed in The Times, is bound to interest a host of leading counties, aware that his record in all forms of the game identifies him as one of the leading batsman in the country.
Long frustrated by a lack of international recognition, Northeast’s fortunes seemed on the up when he was selected by the England Lions tour of the West Indies next year, but the current impasse could lead him to lobby to leave Kent a year early and play First Division Championship cricket to quicken his England ambitions.
By the time Northeast joins the Lions for the limited-overs leg of the tour in March, his future should be known.
Kent are in turmoil even without Northeast’s possible departure. They are advertising for a newly-constituted director of cricket position, the long-serving chairman of cricket, Graham Johnson, is planning to retire and chief executive Jamie Clifford will join the MCC in February as assistant secretary.
Oddly, final interviews for the director of cricket, who will oversee all aspects of Kent’s cricketing affairs, are likely to be concluded after the captaincy issue is resolved.
In the absence of a director of cricket, Northeast has borne a heavy responsibility since taking over the captaincy from Rob Key in September 2015 and has been involved in many aspects of the county’s affairs, including selection, recruitment and player development.
With some of those responsibilities likely to be curtailed, he may now abandon attempts to reinvigorate Kent, where he has played since childhood. Two promotion challenges under his leadership have run aground because of a lack of pace bowling stocks – Matt Coles’ departure to the champions, Essex, has only worsened that position – and an explosive Twenty20 batting line-up has also failed to reach Finals Day in the Blast.
Kent are one of the most traditional of England’s professional clubs and the captaincy appointment must be ratified by the general committee, most likely at a meeting on January 22.