From the moment Stevens joined Kent ahead of the 2005 season, things clicked. In his first campaign he notched up 1,277 first-class runs at a shade under 50.
Hero status achieved instantly. He’s since passed the milestone twice since and has 30 first-class hundreds for the county. Matt Walker, now in charge at Kent, was on the playing staff at that point.
“I remember he turned up here for Leicestershire in this bright red Audi TT with a horrible mullet, and thinking: ‘This is the kid they’re talking about.’”
Before long they were out in the middle together.
“I batted a lot with Darren. I’d be battling away on 40 or 50 and he’d come in and his off the mark shot would be the best of the day.
“At his peak with the bat he was devastating in one-day cricket. He could turn a game on its head in 10 overs – he was that good.”
That white-ball prowess helped the county triumph in the 2007 Twenty20 Cup final over Surrey. Simon Cook joined at around the same time as Stevens and remembers that night at Edgbaston fondly.
“He hit the winning runs and had to go off for drugs testing,” he says. “He came back a couple of hours later in still in his pads. We’d had a few Coca Colas by then and when he got onto the bus back to the hotel he was still in his pads! Even in the bar in the hotel still in his pads!”
Stevens was a key component of a side that dominated domestic one-day cricket for the next few years.
So too was Pakistan star Azhar Mahmood who recalls Stevens as an innovator. “When we batted, he used to tell me which way the wind was blowing so we could target that side. I said: ‘Darren, I don’t care about the wind. I just need to smite the ball.’
“He was a massive striker and I said why are you looking at the wind, you can clear the rope anyway. Then I started playing golf with him and realised he was saying the right thing.”