Stuart MacGill has announced his retirement from international cricket and the current Test against West Indies in Antigua will be his last. MacGill, 37, has struggled to have an impact in the Caribbean, where he is playing his first Tests since having surgery on his right wrist in December to deal with carpal-tunnel syndrome. At the time of making his decision, he had 207 wickets at 28.43 in 44 Tests.
MacGill was the man Australia turned to after Shane Warne's retirement and although he celebrated his comeback to the international set-up with his 200th Test wicket, achieved against Sri Lanka in November, he battled with hand and knee problems during that series and was forced to re-evaluate his future. Despite a reasonably successful Pura Cup return in early 2008, he was unable to translate that to Tests and is yet to decide whether to continue playing for New South Wales.
"Over the past six months I have experienced enough highs and lows to fill a lifetime," MacGill said. "My 200th Test wicket couldn't have been scripted any better. I will never forget the happiness I felt when my family welcomed me at the hotel that night, yet the very next week I was filled with the pain and disappointment of injury.
"Although I considered retirement at the time, I decided to prove to myself that I could rise again and trained privately harder than I have done in years. When I bowled Brad Hodge in the Pura Cup final I knew that despite the often suffocating public scrutiny, I loved my job. I also knew that I was ready to play Test cricket again.
"Unfortunately now my time is up. One of the treats for a bowler playing Test cricket is that you have a champion bowling up the other end. Bowling with some of cricket's all-time greats such as Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee has made my job a lot easier. I want to be sure that exciting young bowlers like Mitchell Johnson enjoy the same privilege.
"As I said many times last summer, there is no way I will ever walk on to a cricket field unless I can guarantee that I can dismiss top-order batsmen consistently. The prospect of letting myself and the team down is simply not an option. I have worked way too hard for too long to sabotage my achievements by playing Test cricket for the wrong reasons."
His return to the Test scene in Kingston was marred by long hops and full tosses, and he struggled to threaten a West Indies line-up that had been rattled by Lee and Stuart Clark. Australia will not send a replacement player to the Caribbean for the third Test, as they already have a back-up slow bowler, Beau Casson, in the squad. MacGill's unexpected departure may provide Casson with a Test debut in Barbados.
"Some people may worry about the future of spin bowling in this country, but I am not one of them," MacGill said. "My game improved exponentially with each step up I made, and I am sure that any of the young spinners playing state cricket will thrive given the same opportunities. I am very excited for Beau, another Western Australian boy who made a very good move east."
While Casson is in the box seat for an immediate call-up, Australia's selectors will be forced to make some tough decisions on the future of their spin stocks before the Test tour of India later this year. They had hoped MacGill could remain the No. 1 slow bowler for at least a couple of years while the younger men developed, but the likes of Casson, Dan Cullen and Victoria's 36-year-old legspinner Bryce McGain will suddenly be vying for an important role.
MacGill, one of Australia's most successful slow bowlers of the modern era, suffered from being a legspinner at a time when Warne was mesmerising the world. His appearances were usually limited to when Warne was unavailable, although the pair did bowl together on occasions with some success. His Test debut came in early 1998 in Adelaide, when he outperformed Warne against South Africa.
An old-fashioned one-dimensional cricketer - he was one of the few men who sometimes batted below McGrath and was less than athletic in the field - MacGill's huge legbreak and excellent wrong'un made him a handful for batsmen the world over. His best efforts included a 12-wicket Test against England in Sydney in 1999, and he had an outstanding 2003-04, when Warne was out with a drugs ban.
MacGill reached 200 Test wickets in his 41st Test - only Clarrie Grimmett, Dennis Lillee and Waqar Younis took fewer games to get there. While the end was not as he had hoped, MacGill will be remembered as an example of Australia's incredible depth during the Waugh and Ponting eras, and as one the best contemporary spinners.