Kasprowicz signs off with head held high
Michael Kasprowicz, who grew into a respected Test bowler after starting his state career as a smiling 17-year-old, will retire after the one-day match against Western Australia on February 16. One of the game's most popular players, Kasprowicz will leave as Queensland's most prolific wicket-taker - he currently has 501, 38 more than his great friend Andy Bichel - and a valued contributor to Australian cricket over the past three decades.
In a collection of fine achievements, Kasprowicz's greatest is probably the recovery from injuries as a result of the 2006 boot camp. He hurt his back during the bonding exercises, then suffered a groin problem and delivered only eight balls for Queensland before hurting his leg. It was his lowest season but he remained in good spirits, jokingly claiming the break as long-service leave.
Further problems hampered him this summer and the constant battle to regain fitness has resulted in him walking away. He has appeared in four first-class matches since coming back, taking 11 wickets at 35.09, and collected five victims in five FR Cup matches. Kasprowicz, who has two young children, is 36 on Sunday and his exit opens the way for a new breed of Queensland bowlers.
"I'm excited about the opportunities that await me," he said. "I'm looking forward to doing things like going to the beach on a Saturday in summer for the first time since I was about eight years old and spending time with my family together. Probably the one thing I will miss is the feeling you get in a winning dressing room and being with your mates."
He has played 114 first-class games for Queensland and also had county stints with Essex, Leicestershire and Glamorgan, where he honed his skills and frightened batsmen with his under-estimated pace. Consistent performances for the domestic sides ensured he was never far from being mentioned in selection meetings and he was constantly to-ing and fro-ing into the national side.
In 43 Tests he picked up 113 wickets at 32.88, although his figures were better than they read. Five-wicket hauls came at The Oval, where he recorded a career-best 7 for 36 in 1997, Bangalore, Darwin and Perth, showing his versatility. He also appeared in 43 ODIs and the country's first two Twenty20 internationals.
During his last Test Kasprowicz sealed a dramatic two-wicket victory in partnership with Brett Lee against South Africa, easing the pain of the disheartening defeat to England in the 2005 Ashes. Following a 59-run last-wicket stand with Lee, Kasprowicz was ruled to have edged Andrew Flintoff to Geraint Jones at Edgbaston, a moment that was crucial to England winning the series for the first time in 16 years.
The pair fell three short of a legendary success and Kasprowicz was devastated. His mood wasn't helped by a text message from a confident former school mate, who congratulated him on the victory when it seemed certain Australia would secure a miraculous result.
Ricky Ponting said Kasprowicz "did a terrific job" whenever he played for Australia. "He's been an amazing servant to Queensland and Australian cricket," he said. "He's just a real workhorse sort of bowler. He had to reinvent himself a couple of times through his career, had a few injuries early on and loss of form and that sort of thing."
Ponting said Kasprowicz's lighter side made him fun to tour with. "He made a newspaper, the Mumbai Mumbler, he called it," he said. "Chock-a-block full of some hilarious stuff. He'd download pictures from the internet and make up little stories about it. He was terrific to have around the group."
"I've enjoyed every moment I had in the game," Kasprowicz said. "I have tried to make it fun whenever I was on the field, whatever the state of the game."
A man for all conditions, he kept answering his country's SOS calls, particularly for tours to the subcontinent. One of his key qualities in the middle stages of his career was an ability to reverse-swing the ball, a trait which won him high praise in India. In the beginning, when he played for Queensland while his mates studied for their final high school exams, he was a swing bowler, but he showed he could evolve with the game, concentrating on hitting the pitch before re-focussing later in life on shape in the air.
Kasprowicz has acted as a mentor for youngsters throughout his time with the state and bowlers with promise will continue to line up for invaluable tips from a professional who has finally given in to his body's demands. Players like Kasprowicz, who have pushed forcefully from the fringes, have been responsible for keeping the standards of the national team so high. Australian cricket should not forget him easily.