Nathan Astle has retired from international cricket, citing a lack of motivation just six weeks before what would have been his fourth World Cup. Astle told a press conference at Perth his international career was over but he was undecided on whether to continue at first-class level.
"I have been fighting this day for about eight months," Astle said. "I so desperately wanted to go to my fourth World Cup, but deep down inside I knew that I was lacking motivation and the enjoyment levels were just not there.
"Probably the first indications were last year when I was having a good run and not really enjoying the success that I was having. But because I wanted to go to the World Cup I probably fudged over these feelings, which was fine until about a month ago when it really started to hit home that this was no longer the place for me. Enjoyment has always been a huge factor for why I play the game and when that faltered I knew it was time to move on.
"Once I had made the decision that I would not be going to the World Cup, for the sake of the team, I needed to go as soon as possible to make way for another player. I don't believe it would have been fair on my team mates to hold on."
One of New Zealand's most successful limited-overs cricketers who also built a respectable 81-Test career, Astle called it quits after a disappointing start to the CB Series in which he scored 0, 45, 0 and 1. He has also struggled in Test matches recently, averaging only 24.30 from his last eight games.
Astle, 35, leaves the game as New Zealand's third-most capped player and second-highest run-scorer in ODI cricket, with 7090 runs at 34.92 from his 223 appearances. In Test matches, he is fourth on his country's list of most games and fourth on the run tally. His 4702 Test runs came at an average of 37.02 from 81 matches.
His 16 ODI centuries - by far the most of any New Zealand player - rank him equal ninth on the all-time list and above such legends as Viv Richards and Adam Gilchrist. His most recent hundred came early last year when he finished unbeaten on 118 as New Zealand wrapped up a series win against West Indies at Christchurch.
A destructive top-order batsman and nagging medium-pace bowler, Astle first appeared on the international scene in 1995 when at the age of 23 he made his limited-overs debut under Ken Rutherford against West Indies at Auckland. It took four games to make his mark - 95 opening the batting against Sri Lanka - and in early 1996 the Canterbury batsman was given his first taste of Test cricket.
Back-to-back hundreds on a tour of West Indies in his third and fourth Tests earned him a permanent place in the side and he peaked in 2002 with the fastest Test double-century. He reached the milestone in only 153 balls against England at Christchurch and went on to finish with 222, his highest Test score.
The later stages of his career have been far from smooth sailing and it was just over a year ago that Astle was dropped from the one-day side to make way for Stephen Fleming, who was returning from paternal leave. John Bracewell, the New Zealand coach, said at the time he wanted to expand the team's depth ahead of the World Cup. But Astle returned with a string of outstanding scores, including the 118 against West Indies, before struggling to have any impact at the Champions Trophy and in the CB Series.
Fleming said he would miss his most experienced offsider out on the field. "Nath was a very uncomplicated, naturally aggressive player who was just great to watch," Fleming said. "He was also a great sounding board for me as a captain because of his calmness and consistency. He will be missed."
Bracewell said it would be hard to fill the gap Astle had left. "Statistically his record puts him into the position of greatness but probably the greatest loss will be his stability and influence inside the team," he said. But Bracewell said the timing of Astle's announcement left a lot to be desired.
"It was a bit of a shock to all of us and quite disruptive to our plans but I respect his decision," Bracewell said. "Timing's never great this close to a big tournament and Nathan was going to be a serious part of that because of his experience and the younger players he was assisting to mentor."