By Matt Somerford
Veteran all-rounder Darren Stevens thinks he is fit and ready to extend his Kent future despite admitting he is starting to feel the aches and pains of a long career.
The 38-year-old has showed little sign of slowing down – he won all the major awards at Kent last season - and hopes to sign a new two-year deal soon that will prolong his first-class career to just shy of two decades.
With that amount of time under his belt Stevens could be forgiven for wanting to lighten his workload but - even after spending long periods on the road this season - he is as determined as ever to play a key role in Kent’s progress.
“The body does start to feel it a bit,” he told ecb.co.uk.
“We’ve just come off playing 12 days in the past 14 and I can tell you it doesn’t get easier. The workload is pretty demanding this year.
“Even a young bloke like our wicketkeeper Sam Billings is feeling it.
“The hardest part for me is probably the warm-up to get yourself started. Once I’ve done that the rest is easy.
“I have to admit though that I am fearing that once the 50-over competition starts I might get a tap on the shoulder and told I need to take a break in that.
“I’m not looking forward to that and it’s not something I want to do. At the end of the day no-one wants to watch on and not be a part of it.
“I hope to get a new two-year deal sorted out soon and I know I can keep going on so I’ll just keep going.
“It might be interesting at the end of the season to see how I pull up when the body slows down though!”
Stevens’ desire to remain a key part of Kent’s on-field plans has been nourished by the rising crop of young talent in the south east.
The all-rounder is enjoying helping with their development, both on the field and of it.
“There are a lot of good young players at Kent at the moment,” he said.
“Some of them can do things that are ridiculous, especially in the Twenty20.
“The format has changed so much in a short time. We’ve got blokes who can reverse pull medium pacemen for six. They are absolutely fearless when they bat.
“I’ll stick to what I do best, but I can help them along the way also.”
Stevens’ wise words almost paid dividends in last week’s tied NatWest T20 Blast clash with Glamorgan when he forged a 73-run stand with Billings after the top-order faltered.
Stevens revived his side’s hopes with a typically bullish 71 from 39 balls, after also taking 3-22, but was most pleased with how his 23-year-old team-mate handled the situation.
“He (Billings) is a really good player,” he said.
“He’s capable of those little scoops and inventive strokes but at that point we came together at Glamorgan I had to give him a bit of a telling off and just say stay with me for a while.
“He was saying he thought he could get away the bowler around the corner, but I just told him we needed the ones and twos and then put away the bad balls.
“He did that and together we got the score right down.
“We knew with Graham Wagg and Michael Hogan left to bowl at the end it would be tough to get them away so when the off-spinner (Andrew Salter) came on with three overs to go I said to him this is the over where you can go for it and do what you like.
“I got out first ball - which didn’t help! - but as I was walking off I told him to still go for it.
“He did and I think he took something like 16 from the over. From there we should have probably got over the line but it is all about learning and he did well.”
Another player creating a stir at the Spitfire Ground is young spinner Adam Riley, who has been mentioned as a potential future international.
The 22-year-old has the most domestic wickets of any English spinner this summer – 24 at an average of 29.50 – and has twice claimed five-wicket hauls.
Stevens is full of praise for the right-armer, but believes he should be shielded from higher honours for at least another 12 months as England search for their successor to Graeme Swann.
“He great young person and he is really switched on,” Stevens said.
“It’s his first full season and he has done well, but I just hope that he is allowed to keep working away with Kent.
“He’s only just come out of university and he’s enjoying himself and doing well. I wouldn’t want to see him get a call for a tour in the winter and then get burnt out.
“He’s got a lot of cricket ahead and I think he would be better served having a season and then getting away for a bit and then starting again next year. If he’s still doing it then, like I think he can, then we can see where it leads.
“Like I say he is really switched on and a smart player. I think he is going to be a future captain. I’d like to see him given room to develop with Kent.”