At the age of 42, Darren Stevens is no stranger to re-invention.
The veteran Kent all-rounder continues to rack up runs and wickets on the county circuit and has left no stone unturned in his battle against Father Time.
From a hard-hitting white-ball batsman at Leicestershire, Stevens has changed to become one of the canniest all-rounders in the game – his red-ball seamers have accounted for 439 first-class victims and counting.
Considering he only took six wickets in his first eight years at Grace Road before moving south to Canterbury – his ability to adapt has been pivotal.
And the man himself has never been afraid to try new things – including batting practice in the dark when he first arrived at Kent to try and hone his focus on the ball.
“There was a guy I worked with called Neil Burns who helped me with my technique, where I needed to change and get better,” he said.
“It just worked out that, two days a week were the only days we could get together and it would be at seven or eight o’clock at night in a little school called Sunningdale Prep.
“Their indoor school was a barn, the lighting wasn’t great and I spent three or four months there in 2004 and then we carried on doing it because we seemed to get good results.
“Picking up these old dingy balls out of a dark background. It made me focus.
“A lot of batsmen, including myself, beat themselves up over technique but a lot of it is just watching the ball.
“The pace it was at as well, you had to watch it because if you didn’t you were going to get hurt.
“Facing 85-90mph is not great on the best of days, but in the dark on a bowling machine, you don’t get a rhythm and it is spitting at you.
“I got many a bruise, but I think it helped me massively for where I am now.”
His first eight years at Leicestershire without a heavy bowling workload have also played a big role in keeping Stevens firing fit into his forties.
“If had been bowling then I don’t think I would be here now, just because it takes so much out of your body,” he added.
“I still like to think of myself as a batsman that bowls a little bit but looking at the stats over the years, I have turned myself into an allrounder.”
Ask him now at the start of a new season, with the body fresh and Stevens is convinced he has ‘two or three’ more years at the top.
Of course come September with 300+ overs in the legs and his view might change, but for now the all-rounder could not be more motivated to lead Kent back to glory – starting with the Royal London One-Day Cup that gets underway this week.
Quarter-finalists in 2016, and semi-finalists in 2014, Stevens is confident they can end the wait to reach the Lord’s final this year – starting with a crunch clash against local rivals Sussex on Thursday.
“The Royal London One-Day Cup and one-day cricket in general is the ultimate for me,” he added. “Four-day is the stand-in, it’s all about white-ball cricket.
“Ever since my debut back in 1996 at Chelmsford in a white-ball game, I have always prided myself on it. It makes you relax and you feel like you can play your shots a bit. I thrive on it really.
“The big thing is getting to Lord’s, that’s the ultimate place for us as professional cricketers and from all around the world.
“We obviously talk about all the competitions but, I have been fortunate to be at Lord’s a few times. But unfortunately, not won any of them.
“It’s really important to make a fast start, it comes thick and fast over the next month and with only eight Group games.
“We have got the wood over Sussex a bit in the one-day stuff and we have just beaten them in the four day as well so momentum is in our way.”
Royal London, proud sponsors of one-day cricket, celebrating unconventional greatness in the game by championing the independent spirit of players like Kent Spitfires’ Darren Stevens. The Royal London One-Day Cup returns on 17th May.