Ronnie Irani has retired as Essex captain with immediate effect. Earlier this month, Irani said he would be retiring at the end of the season, but his knee injury - which had already pretty much ruled him out of the first-class game - has now been deemed serious enough to rule him out of any cricket whatsoever. He will undergo surgery later in July.
"I'm naturally disappointed that things are ending this way," he told the Essex website. "I was hoping to swallow this bitter pill at the end of the season but unfortunately the end of my playing career has come earlier than anticipated." He had rejected a two-year contract earlier this year.
Irani, 35, has been an Essex stalwart since 1994 when he moved to Chelmsford following four unfulfilled seasons with Lancashire. Early in his career he was a fine allrounder, batting in the middle order and bowling a large number of overs, occasionally with the new ball. By 1996 he'd done enough to attract the interest of the England selectors and was picked in David Lloyd's first squad for the one-day series against India.
He made his Test debut against India that same season, at Edgbaston, taking a wicket with his fifth ball, but managed just two further Tests. His ODI career lasted slightly longer and he squeezed into the 2003 World Cup squad for his final international honours.
As Graham Gooch, Essex's coach, told Cricinfo a few weeks ago: "It's a massive loss for us because we've lost our leader, our most experienced player. He's been an inspirational captain for Essex, a leader from the front, a role model in the way he goes about his cricket. He's been a great servant for Essex and a great entertainer for the fans here."