Ben Smith announces retirement
Worcestershire's Ben Smith has announced his decision to retire at the end of the season. Smith, 38, will be taking up a full-time role as the county's assistant coach effective from October 1.
"I have taken the difficult decision to retire from playing at the end of this season," Smith said. "Over the years I have taken my coaching qualifications and hope to obtain my Level 4 in the very near future. To have the opportunity to start my second career with such a talented group of players at Worcestershire is greatly appreciated."
Smith came up through the Leicestershire youth system to make his first-class debut in 1990, and was in danger of becoming pigeonholed as a one-day specialist before he blossomed in 1996, scoring 1243 runs at 47.80. Smith subsequently quit the county and moved to Worcestershire where he made an immediate impression, succeeding Graeme Hick as captain in 2003.
He caused a stir when he stepped down as skipper - mid-match - in August 2004, saying he wanted to concentrate on his batting. At the time he resigned he was averaging almost 59 in the Championship, and continued to be a consistent run-maker in the following seasons, but in the last two years his returns have tailed off and he had managed just 282 first-class runs at 23.50 in 2010 before announcing his retirement.
"Ben has had a wonderful playing career with both Leicestershire and ourselves and I am delighted he has agreed to join our coaching team on a full-time basis," said Steve Rhodes, Worcestershire's director of cricket.
"He will continue to work with our contracted and academy players in developing fielding skills whilst taking on additional roles including one-to-one specialist coaching, match preparation and video analysis. He will be of great assistance to both Damian [D'Oliveira] and myself as we develop our young squad in the years ahead."
The two newest members of that young squad will be Neil Pinner and Matt Pardoe, both 19, who have just signed two-year professional contracts with the county. Both players are graduates of the Worcestershire Academy directed by D'Oliveira and both have been in record-breaking form for the second XI this year, passing 1000 runs each.
"The conveyor belt of young players coming through the Academy and our relationship with Malvern College continues to bear fruit and I am delighted that both Neil and Matt have secured full time contracts having been granted a summer scholarship this year," added Rhodes.
"We cannot find any record in recent years of two players passing 1000 runs in second XI cricket and they have thoroughly earned these full time contracts. I have no doubt it will not be long before they get a chance in the first XI."