(Photo: Getty Images)
By Charlie Talbot-Smith
AT THE age of 42, Darren Stevens is winning his battle against Father Time.
The veteran Kent all-rounder remains one of the most dangerous all-rounders on the county circuit and has left no stone unturned in his battle to re-invent himself.
He was once a hard-hitting white-ball batsman at Leicestershire, now he has become one of the cleverest all-rounders about – his red-ball seamers have accounted for 439 first-class victims and counting.
Considering he only took six wickets in his first eight years at Grace Road before moving south to Canterbury – his ability to adapt has been pivotal.
And the man himself has never been afraid to try new things – including batting practice in the dark when he first arrived at Kent to try and hone his focus on the ball.
“There was a guy I worked with called Neil Burns who helped me with my technique, where I needed to change and get better,” he said.
“It just worked out that, two days a week were the only days we could get together and it would be at seven or eight o’clock at night in a little school called Sunningdale Prep. Their indoor school was a barn, the lighting wasn’t great and I spent three or four months there in 2004 and then we carried on doing it because we seemed to get good results.
“Picking up these old dingy balls out of a dark background. It made me focus.
“A lot of batsmen, including myself, beat themselves up over technique but a lot of it is just watching the ball.
“The pace it was at as well, you had to watch it because if you didn’t you were going to get hurt.
“Facing 85-90mph is not great on the best of days, but in the dark on a bowling machine, you don’t get a rhythm and it is spitting at you.
“I got many a bruise, but I think it helped me massively for where I am now.”
His first eight years at Leicestershire without a heavy bowling workload have also played a big role in keeping Stevens firing fit into his forties.
“If had been bowling then I don’t think I would be here now, just because it takes so much out of your body,” he added.
“I still like to think of myself as a batsman that bowls a little bit but looking at the stats over the years, I have turned myself into an all-rounder.”
Stevens is convinced he has ‘two or three’ more years at the top but with 300-plus overs in the legs and his view might change, but for now the all-rounder could not be more motivated to lead Kent back to glory – starting with the Royal London One-Day Cup which got underway last week.
“Ever since my debut back in 1996 at Chelmsford in a white-ball game, I have always prided myself on it,” he added.
“The big thing is getting to Lord’s. We obviously talk about all the competitions but, I have been fortunate to be at Lord’s a few times. But unfortunately, not won any of them.
Royal London, proud sponsors of one-day cricket, celebrating unconventional greatness in the game by championing the independent spirit of players like Kent Spitfires’ Darren Stevens.