James Foster, the Essex wicketkeeper widely regarded as one of the finest glovemen of his generation, will retire at the end of the English season.

"I have really enjoyed my 19 years as a professional cricketer and it is with great sadness that I will no longer be an Essex player," Foster said in an open letter. "It has been a real privilege to play for my home county and I am extremely proud to have represented England."

Foster, 38, made his county debut in 2000 and little more than a year later was in the England side when he was called up for the one-day series against Zimbabwe in 2000-01, before earning his Test debut against India at Mohali a few months later.

His England career finished with seven Tests, 11 ODIs and five T20Is - his T20 appearances coming during the 2009 World T20 when he was recalled to England colours after a gap of seven years on the strength of his outstanding wicketkeeping. It was often felt he was harshly done by with his international appearances due to the perception his batting was not the quality required in the post-Alec Stewart era when England picked the likes of Geraint Jones, Tim Ambrose and Matt Prior.

However, in first-class cricket Foster averaged over 36 and made 23 centuries with a career-best 212 against Leicestershire in 2004.

There was never any doubt, though, about his work behind the stumps and his 901 first-class dismissals (839 catches and 62 stumpings) leaves him second in the Essex record books behind Brian Taylor.

He was a part of Essex's Pro40 titles in 2005 and 2006, their NatWest Trophy win in 2008 and, most recently, the County Championship title last season. Foster began this season in the Essex Championship side but has not played since mid-May.

"I can't put into words how great it's been to share a dressing room with Fozzy," Ryan ten Doeschate, the Essex captain, said. "He's been the rock at Essex for all of the time I've played here, the most thorough professional and a cherished friend through thick and thin. Over the last 15 years he's been a big presence and a great example in the dressing room, we're going to miss him next season."

Foster had already made a move into coaching while still playing - he was involved in the GLT20 in Canada earlier this year - and has worked with both the England and England Lions set-ups. He was involved in the final Test against India, at The Oval, last week and will now take up roles with Sydney Thunder in the BBL and Khulna Titans in the BPL.

"Whilst playing has now come to an end, I am incredibly excited about the next phase of my career," Foster said. "I have been working extremely hard on building my coaching CV and experience over the last three years for various professional, franchise and international teams.

"I am delighted to be working with Sydney Thunder underneath Shane Bond in the upcoming BBL and again with the Mahela Jayawardene at the Khulna Titans in the BPL this winter. Before that, I am very excited to be coaching the Afghanistan Boost Defenders during the ADT20 in Abu Dhabi and I will also continue to coach the talented youngsters at Forest School."