Darren Stevens insisted retirement remains a long way from his thoughts after Kent were crowned Vitality Blast champions courtesy of a helping hand from their evergreen all-rounder on Finals Day at Edgbaston.
At an age where his contemporaries wrapped up their playing careers a long time ago, Stevens, 45, continues to defy Father Time, averaging almost 50 with the bat and 20 with the ball in the 2021 LV= Insurance County Championship.
He has had to battle to maintain a presence in Kent’s Twenty20 side in recent campaigns but after featuring in 11 of their 14 group stage matches this year, he was axed for the quarter-final win over Birmingham Bears last month.
Restored to the line-up on Saturday, Stevens responded with a masterful 47 not out from 28 balls which proved instrumental in the semi-final win over Sussex before Kent overcame Somerset in the weekend showpiece.
It was a second T20 title for Kent, with Stevens also involved in their 2007 triumph while this was his third overall having helped Leicestershire to glory in 2004. And his appetite for winning trophies is still undimmed.
“I’ve been gutted over the last four years not getting a chance but it’s been a strong side to get in, and I tried pushing my case, couldn’t get in, and then this winter I really pushed on,” he said.
“The way I played in the Champo this year where I’ve been quite aggressive, it showed that actually I’ve still got the shots in me and I’ve definitely got the desire to play white-ball cricket and win trophies.
“I’m still playing the game because it’s all about winning trophies and winning games of cricket for Kent. It showed that I’ve still got it in there. Just to walk away with a trophy is just unbelievable, I can’t explain it.
“The older you get, I feel like I keep fighting to get myself in the side. I’ve got no interest in stopping. As long as I keep keeping myself fit, looking after my body, as long as the eyes stay good I’ll be alright.”
Stevens admitted his irritation at being overlooked at the last eight stage three weeks ago, with left-handed batsman Alex Blake given the nod instead for the Canterbury fixture.
His close relationships with captain Sam Billings and coach and former team-mate Matt Walker meant there were no lingering issues, but Stevens revealed he made a bullish prediction after being told he would be dropped.
“Was I disappointed? Let’s just say… you wanted to be a fly on the wall,” he said. “I’m very tight with Sam and and with Walks for obvious reasons. If I didn’t show that they’d be disappointed in me.
“They wanted a leftie which was understandable. But it’s passion for the club, it’s passion for playing big games of cricket. I want to be at the forefront of any big match situation.
“I was devastated to be left out but one thing I did say is, ‘you get us to Finals Day and I’ll win you the final’. I felt that if we got to Finals Day, big-game situations… I want a piece of it.
“I feel that knock in the semi-final was a big contribution to winning the comp. I feel like I’ve done myself justice there.”
As Stevens looks ahead to continuing playing into next season and possibly beyond, he believes the future is bright for Kent, adding: “We’ve got a lot of depth and we’ve got a strong squad for the next five or 10 years.”