Got my life back, cricket is a bonus - Phil Jaques
Phil Jaques has said he has no regrets over his decision to have surgery on his back in 2008, a move that effectively ended his international career. However, Jaques said it was "very disappointing" that his injury prevented him from playing any more than 11 matches in a Test career that brought him three centuries, including one in his final innings.
At 32, Jaques has realised his opportunities with New South Wales would continue to dwindle with the rise of young batsmen like Nic Maddinson and Kurtis Patterson. And the potential shrinking of the Cricket Australia contract list could have meant Jaques was no certainty to win another state contract, with the possibility of several fringe Australian players returning to the state list.
A two-year deal with Yorkshire was on the table and Jaques, who holds a British passport, chose the security and signed as a local player. It was a decision that will mean the end of his Australian career when this summer finishes, but Jaques will leave the Australian scene pleased with his achievements for New South Wales and in the baggy green.
He became a permanent member of the Test side when Justin Langer retired, but carried a serious back injury through his entire international career. It became so severe in late 2008 that he had surgery that kept him out for nearly a year, and he never played for Australia again, stuck on 11 Tests with an average of 47.47.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to play more Test cricket at the time," Jaques told ESPNcricinfo. "It was very disappointing. Ten months out of any career, anyone would be disappointed. But I'm pretty happy and proud of the things I achieved in the game.
"I won a few Pura Cups, one-day comps, played for Australia, toured overseas, scored a couple of hundreds - I can't complain about my career. I was probably just unfortunate I played in the era when I did, when we had guys like Hayden and Langer who did so well."
In the end, Jaques had no choice but to have an operation, such was the seriousness of his injury. His time out of the game allowed Simon Katich to consolidate his place as Test opener, before Phillip Hughes and Shane Watson also moved in at the top of the order. It was hard for Jaques to let his opportunity go, but cricket was secondary in his decision.
"I just couldn't get out of bed, I couldn't stay in bed, I couldn't walk around, I couldn't sit. There was just nothing that I could do that made it comfortable," he said. "It was starting to affect my sleeping and you can't live without sleep. It was becoming a real issue and it was something I worked really hard at trying to fix and trying to manage, and I stayed in there for as long as I could. I probably had the back injury the whole time I played for Australia.
"I played with it for two or three years, on really high doses of anti-inflammatories, which weren't good for me. I made the decision to get it operated on based on my health. It got to the point where the drugs didn't help me anyway. It was about getting my life back ahead of actually playing cricket. It was life first, cricket second. I've been blessed that it's all gone really well and I've got my life back first and foremost. Cricket is a bonus."
Unfortunately for Jaques, he hasn't hit the same batting peaks since his surgery, at least, not consistently enough to attract the attention of Australia's selectors. He said it took him some time after the operation to get back into the swing of top-flight cricket, particularly learning what he physically could and could not do, but he is confident he has plenty to offer Yorkshire.
"I'm feeling really good at the crease again," he said. "I got a few hundreds last year in the Shield, I got back-to-back hundreds in a game, which I'd never done in my whole career. I hit 170 in a one-day game. So I can still play, it was just a matter of being able to work out what I could and couldn't do with my training and modify it accordingly.
Now the challenge for Jaques, the son of a Yorkshire-born father and a Lancastrian mother, is to find consistency in all three formats in the county game. Technically he could still qualify to play for England, but he knows his Test days are over.
"I'm done with international cricket," Jaques said. "I'm just focused on Yorkshire and playing some good cricket there, playing all three forms of the game hopefully and enjoying my cricket. I want to help them get back up into the first division where they belong."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here