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Ashes 2021/22

Darren Stevens hits back at ‘unfair’ criticism that he is what’s wrong with county cricket

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Darren Stevens has hit back at suggestions that his success in county cricket is a problem for the English game, following England’s failure to regain the Ashes in Australia.

Some have pinpointed the apparent gap between the County Championship and Test cricket as one cause of the struggles of England’s batters. Stevens, 45 years old and operating at speeds of around 70mph, is often used as a byword for these issues, with Michael Vaughan among those to invoke the Kent all-rounder’s name in his analysis of England’s Ashes debacle.

“He’s an absolute legend but surely that is a glaring error on our behalf that a 45-year-old is taking the new Duke ball,” he said on Fox Cricket’s The Follow On podcast.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Stevens, who has averaged under 20 with the ball in each of the last five first-class summers, argued that describing him as reliant on beneficial conditions was “unfair”.

“I suppose I could get annoyed because my name’s at the front of it when you’ve got people saying, ‘You’ve got to change county cricket because Stevo gets wickets every week’,” he said. “I try and ignore it. If I really think about it, I suppose it is a little unfair.

“I had a bit of a run-in with our director of cricket a couple of years ago because he said I should finish at the end of the year as he didn’t think I could get wickets in Division One on Test match grounds. Well, I got a five-for on all of them, seven wickets at The Oval, and at Trent Bridge I got 10 wickets when they had prepared a turning pitch for Ravi Ashwin.

“So it’s frustrating when people say I only get wickets on green seamers in early or late season. But anyway… it’s a load of bulls***. My job is to win games for Kent.”

Stevens gave his own view of the reasons for England’s batting crisis, putting forward that the rise of T20 cricket has contributed to batters being reluctant to battle through tough periods.

“There is the odd player who grinds it out like Dom Sibley, but it’s changed so much,” Stevens said. “Rather than seeing off the new ball, it’s about trying to hit it against the advertising board to get the shine off. That massively affects Test batting. Look at how Scott Boland [who took six wickets for seven runs on debut in the third Ashes Test] bowled in Melbourne – he asked questions every ball and they couldn’t keep him out.

“I feel like Twenty20 has decreased batsmen’s defences. They are all thinking about scoring a run a ball. Actually, four-day cricket is about batting time and wearing the opposition down.”

Stevens was named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2021.

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