Kent Player of the Year, Darren Stevens, talks to the website

Wednesday 6th October 2010

Kent“s Player of the Season, Darren Stevens, talks to the club website about his plans for the winter and thoughts on his exploits during the 2010 campaign.

The all-rounder, currently on a ten-day holiday in America, continued to enhance his reputation as one of the leading limited-overs players in the country last season and has been rewarded with another call-up to the England side for the Hong Kong sixes next month. When Stevens returns from his holiday he will spend time with Paul Farbrace, honing his Twenty20 talents, before jetting off to the Middle East to take part in the two-day tournament in Kowloon. It“s an event Stevens enjoyed last season when he shone for the Three Lions and he is looking forward to showcasing his talents once again: “I had a great trip last year; shame we lost in the semi-final but it was good fun. I would personally like to see it go on for a bit longer as we currently only play over three days. It is a fairly low key trip. We go to a couple of dinners, spend some time coaching and working with the youth development side. It is all fairly laidback – until we get out on the pitch! Everyone wants to win and the atmosphere is awesome. You play at a tiny little ground but it“s a fantastic setup. The place is always packed out and the stands are massive so it feels like there are these towering buildings and office blocks way above you. The cricket field seems tiny in comparison. Hopefully we can enjoy another good tournament and perhaps go all the way this time.”

After the sixes, the explosive batsman turns his attention to his main forte – Twenty20 cricket, when he travels to New Zealand to play for the Otago Volts in their domestic tournament. Stevens explains how the move came about: “The Hampshire captain, Dimi Mascarenhas, is a good friend of mine and he recommended me. He was their overseas player last year but is still recuperating from his Achilles operation so there was no chance of him playing this year. He put me in contact with their coach and he got hold of me to discuss things. It was an easy decision so I quickly said yes. They have some good players; the McCullum brothers (Brendon and Nathan), Ian Butler (who played here, as an overseas player), Aaron Redmond… the list goes on. They“ve got some good players.”

The former Leicestershire man is no stranger to the Kiwi nation, and has been provided with an insight into his temporary home by a member of the St Lawrence backroom team: “It won“t be my first trip to New Zealand. I“ve been to Wellington and have travelled around the north. Otago is the hometown of Pete Kelly, our strength and conditioning coach, so he has given me lots of information and places to see. I“m really looking forward to it.”

With conditions in New Zealand likely to suit swing bowlers, Stevens is looking to shine with his medium-pacers but still, quite rightly so, also backs himself to produce the goods with his treasured Kookaburra: “I“m not too sure about the local conditions although I suspect I will find it easier for me with the ball in my hand. Still, its Twenty20 cricket so it is all on the day. I expect that the pitches will be green and flat but if it comes out the middle of the bat then I“ll be fine. We will play on some good cricket pitches so I“m looking forward to it.”

The domestic Twenty20 schedule in England has come under much scrutiny of late with many counties calling for changes to be made. Stevens believes that the format in NZ will suit him better even though he is very aware of how tough his spell as the Volts overseas star is going to be: “They schedule it really well over there; I would say that it is better than our format. You only play a couple of matches per week and the tournament lasts for five weeks. Over here, with the matches coming thick and fast, it is tougher on the body but playing in New Zealand won“t take too much out of me. Then, when I return, I will get the opportunity to build up my fitness and get ready for the 2011 season.”

Away from the pitch the 34 year-old is looking to take in the sights of the scenic country during his trip and believes cricketers are lucky to have the chance to taste different cultures: “I“m looking forward to the opportunity of seeing New Zealand as a country. I am staying on for an extra week, travelling around. I love seeing different cultures, and how people live, so cannot wait for things to start. As cricketers, we are so fortunate to get the chance to travel. Over the last ten or 15 years, I“ve been all over the world with cricket and it hasn“t cost me much so it“s fantastic. I“ve been very lucky.”

Back to his thoughts on Kent and Stevens is well aware that his form with the bat fell away slightly during the second-half of the season but, with the help of a lot of hard work, he is keen to put things right for the 2011 season: “It went very well for the first five months but the last part of the season was a bit disappointing for me. I guess I did a lot of bowling, at that time, and it took a lot out of me; both mentally and physically. However, after making such a good start, I should have scored more runs, maybe 1400 in championship cricket. I cannot really work out what went wrong but I“m determined to put it right so I can hopefully enjoy an even better 2011.”

Picture: Sarah Ansell