Is Darren Gough set for retirement? He has still not signed the contract Essex offered him at the end of last season. From it being just a matter of putting pen to paper for much of the winter it suddenly became 'almost certain' that he would sign a contract after he was left out of the provisional World Cup squad.

Essex's chief executive David East told Cricinfo: "Darren Gough continues to indicate his intentions to play for Essex in 2007. It is true he has not signed a new contract yet but he will return from Australia soon and we expect it to be finalised then."

Gough's spokeswoman said: "There's no question of him retiring. When he comes back from Australia it will be sorted."

Nevertheless, such uncertainty suggests he is now having doubts about whether he wants to continue to play now that he will purely be a county cricketer. It's likely that Graham Gooch, the Essex coach, is having one last attempt to persuade him to play this season while they are playing beach cricket out in Australia. But the signs aren't good.

His extra-curricular activities (and what he could make over the summer were he not playing) could play a major part in his final decision. With a DVD out, a book and the prospect of TV work on the horizon, he could decide that the financial lure of pursuing a career outside cricket is more attractive than the county circuit that he will be consigned to after missing out on the World Cup. His England career was briefly revived last year with two one-dayers against Pakistan, but that dim flicker was soon quashed.

He has already flatly denied news stories linking him with a move back to Yorkshire ... but it's not because of an over-eagerness to sign with Essex.