Darren Stevens still playing county cricket aged 45 – and has no plans to retire
Kent's Darren Stevens reckons there is still plenty more to come despite claiming his seat at a rarified table on Friday when he becomes the first man since 1995 to play professional county cricket at the age of 45.
Former spinner Eddie Hemmings hung up his boots aged 46 in the mid-90s and others have come close in recent times with batsmen Marcus Trescothick and Mark Ramprakash both playing into their 40s.
But the fact that Stevens has become one of the most successful seam bowling all-rounders in the game makes his feat truly stunning, and after being named as one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year he is showing no signs of slowing down.
“I love it,” said Stevens. “But never in a million years did I think I would still be playing at this age.
“I started out playing with my mates and I was lucky enough to get paid some money each month, but I didn’t really take it too seriously and it certainly didn’t feel like a job.
“But after getting the sack from Leicestershire in 2004 and spending a bit of time with Neil Burns, that was when I really sorted my game out and my mindset out and the move to Kent under David Fulton worked brilliantly.
“At the time I didn’t think I would even play much Championship cricket, but I got a few runs and the rest is history, and now I think I can still do a job for Kent, scoring runs and taking wickets, and I see no reason to stop for a while yet.
“We’re fortunate to play professional sport and I’m so pleased and proud with what I’ve achieved and what I’ve done. You just don’t know what is around the corner. Life is too short and what has happened over the last year and a half has shown us that. I lost my dad to it and that was brutal. You’ve got to enjoy yourself while you can.”
The ‘it’ Stevens refers to of course is Covid 19, taking his dad Bob last year at just 67 after battling with cancer and pneumonia.
Stevens admits it was a difficult time for his mum, who could only see him through the window while he briefly stayed in the driveway in a caravan to be as near as possible during lockdown.
“I still look at my phone every now and again expecting to see a message from him.” He said before breaking out in laughter and adding: “It was about six months after he’d passed and one day I was looking at my phone and I had a call from him. I’ve thought ‘What the?! What the?! And I’ve bobbed my pants.
First Class debut: Leicestershire v Cambridge University, 1997
2002: Selected in ECB Academy and made final 30 for 2003 World Cup squad
2004: Won T20 Blast with Leicestershire
2007: Won T20 Blast with Kent
2019: Hit career best 237 v Yorkshire for Kent
2021: Fourth oldest to be named Wisden Cricketer of the Year.
“Turns out my mum had rung me from his iPad and it came up ‘Dad’ on my phone. He would have been laughing up there at the shock on my face when I saw it. He was so old school and so matter of fact, and even though it would wind me up at times, I really miss those chats with him.”
His dad would often bluntly ask what his next job might be if it looked like his contract might not be renewed, and each year he would produce performances to earn another deal, like the double hundred he got against Yorkshire in 2019.
He knows there will be another chat in the office this year, but he has already scored a ton and is currently Kent’s leading bowler nipping the ball in and away from batsman at will. There will surely be more to come.
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