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Kent Cricket player-of-the-year Darren Stevens already preparing for the 2022 season

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It says a lot about veteran Kent all-rounder Darren Stevens’ commitment to the game that he spent the first morning of the close-season working in the gym.

Stevens, still going strong at 45, was beginning his preparations for an astounding 18th straight season at Kent in 2022 - just three days after being crowned Kent's player-of-the-year for the third successive year.

Darren Stevens, now 45, is preparing for an 18th straight season at Kent next summer. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Darren Stevens, now 45, is preparing for an 18th straight season at Kent next summer. Picture: Barry Goodwin

It capped a brilliant fortnight for Stevens and his team-mates, with the Spitfires winning the T20 Blast competition for the first time in 14 years and then claiming the Division 3 County Championship title.

But Stevens, who signed a contract keeping him at the county for next summer in June, already has one eye on the upcoming campaign.

“There’s a few bits and bobs that are flying around at the minute,” he replied when asked what would come next in his schedule.

“I have a programme that I will work towards. I will hit that pretty hard until Christmas-time and maybe we will look to take a little trip somewhere - maybe to Cape Town if it's off the red list.

“Then there will probably be a few conversations to have. I pretty much know what I want to work on.

“It will be a case of sitting down with the coaching staff to work out where we go from there.”

Leicester-born Stevens admits he was delighted to win player-of-the-year which is voted for by Kent supporters - and sons, Flynn and Leo, sound like they were equally thrilled!

He said: “It's 'the' prize, isn’t it? It’s the one everybody wants to win.

“I’m chuffed to bits. But a lot of hard work from the winter paid off.

“If I had not won it this year, I think my boys would have been disappointed. They have had it in their bedroom for the past few years!

“I love playing at the club and I love competing.

"Winning the T20 was just the icing on the cake this year.”

Stevens struck more than 800 runs during his 2021 campaign, including three centuries, and took 52 wickets.

But the player-of-the-year gong was the only award he went away with - highlighting the fact there were plenty of contributions from Stevens’ team-mates which led to their success this summer.

Seam bowler Matt Milnes was named players’ player-of-the-year and bowler-of-the-year after he took 62 wickets across all formats at an average of 20.30.

He missed matches at the start of the season through injury but responded well and received his county cap in September.

Stevens said: “I was really pleased for Matty who got players’ player and bowler-of-the-year.

“He missed some championship games at the start of the season so for him to come back from a nasty injury and put in some pretty consistent performances was great. He had a great season.”

Jordan Cox took the young player-of-the-year and fielder-of-the-year awards, having also played a key hand for Kent on finals day.

Cox took 21 outfield catches in 30 matches, plus a sensational individual effort against Somerset in the T20 Blast final alongside team-mate Milnes to dismiss Lewis Gregory, while he struck a vital 58 not out in the showdown at Edgbaston.

Stevens said: “Jordan has not got his rewards in four-day cricket this year, really.

"He got lots of 30s and 40s but, to be fair, it's still a learning curve for him. He is still only 20.

"But in the white-ball stuff, he has been outstanding. What stands out is, when you speak to Coxy outside of cricket, he is still very much that 20-year-old that is just making his way into the side.

“But when you talk to him about cricket, he is very much a senior player. It comes across like that when you are in the middle with him.

“He is an excellent talent and I’m sure we will see a lot more of him over the coming years.”

Other awards from the men's side went to fast bowler Nathan Gilchrist (Emerging player-of-the-year), Daniel Bell-Drummond (Spitfire one-day player-of-the-season) and Jack Leaning (Batter-of-the-year).

Stevens praised Leaning, who also got his county cap this summer, saying: “Jack Leaning has been Mr Consistent for us in all forms.

“He had a little blip through the one-day stuff but that was more Covid-related than anything else, really, so he has done really well this summer."

Read more: All the latest sports news from Kent

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