Exclusive: Kent set to release legendary all-rounder Darren Stevens after 17 years at end of season

·2 min read
Cricketing treasure: Darren Stevens is set to be released by Kent after 17 years (Getty Images)
Cricketing treasure: Darren Stevens is set to be released by Kent after 17 years (Getty Images)

Kent are set to release the legendary veteran Darren Stevens at the end of the season – and he appears likely to have already played his last game for the club due to injury.

Stevens, 46, is into his 18th season at Kent, having been a spectacular success since moving from Leicestershire, his home county, ahead of the 2005 season.

But having picked up a nasty calf injury batting in last week’s Royal London One-Day Cup defeat by Glamorgan, he appears unlikely to play again this season and the county are preparing to announce his departure. Barring a last minute change of heart, he has played his final game for Kent.

Stevens is thought to be keen to continue playing, and is unlikely to announce his retirement any time soon. Whether a county would take on a player of his age is unclear, however.

This season, with the pitches flatter at Canterbury, Stevens has taken just six wickets at 75 in six matches, although he has added a 38th first-class century to his tally (against a Sri Lanka Development XI in May) and is averaging 45 with the bat.

That is in stark contrast to the previous five summers, in which Stevens averaged under 20 with the ball every year. Having made his name as a hard-hitting batter, Stevens has become a remarkable all-rounder, and has picked up all 31 of his first-class five-wicket hauls since his 35th birthday.

In a first-class career spanning 326 matches, he averages more than 35 with the bat and under 25 with the ball.

Stevens has also been an outstanding white-ball cricketer, and in 2021 won the Vitality Blast for the third time, making crucial contributions with bat and ball on Finals Day.

That led to him becoming the oldest recipient of Wisden’s Five Cricketers Of The Year award, in 2021.

He is considered something of a cricketing treasure, and has been dubbed the game’s Benjamin Button for his ageless excellence. But he has also expressed frustration that his name has become a byword for the troubles of England’s red-ball cricket, with the brand of red-ball seam that he mastered often blamed for the struggles of county batters.

This is a winter of change at Kent. Last week, they announced that Matt Milnes would leave for Yorkshire and Joey Evison had joined from Nottinghamshire. Evison, the 20-year-old all-rounder, has already made his mark with a century in the Royal London Cup. Evison would appear a ready-made replacement for Stevens.

Ollie Robinson, the wicketkeeper-batter, is also set to leave and Zak Crawley is among other players out of contract, but captain Sam Billings and Grant Stewart have extended their deals.