Ahmed Amla, the Dolphins and KwaZulu-Natal batsman, has announced his decision to retire from all cricket. His agent said Amla was retiring to focus on his studies and pursue business interests.
Amla, 33, is the older brother of South African batsman Hashim Amla, although the two have had vastly different cricket careers. Ahmed never earned an international cap, although he hovered close to it through much of his career.
He made his first-class debut in 1997, at the age of 18, for Natal B. That season, he was picked in the South African Development XI that toured Namibia, and in the next season for the South African under-19 team. That earned him a spot at the national academy and helped establish himself as a regular in the Kwa-Zulu Natal provincial, and later Dolphins, franchise team, which he also captained for some time.
In the 2004-05 season, when the domestic franchise system was formed, his batting average reached 40 for the first time. He lifted it to 48.27 the next summer, when he was probably closest to playing for South Africa. With competition for places high, he had to settle for leading the South African A side, for whom he made numerous appearances.
Amla career did not take off as his brother's did and did not reach the highs of that season again. He remained an important part of the Dolphins batting, especially as he was one of their most senior players. His mentorship skills were also put to use in Mozambique, where he was a consultant for their national side.
This season he struggled to make the franchise team and had to settle for playing in the second-tier provincial division. With the knowledge that he was keeping out younger players, Amla chose to pull down the curtain on his playing career.
He may not be lost to the sport altogether. He has been on commentary stints with the national broadcaster, SABC, and may yet further his coaching ambitions. He is also studying towards a business degree.
Hashim Amla led the tributes to his brother. "Special special congrats to my bro @ahmedamla retiring from all cricket today.wonderful player n more so an amazing person," he tweeted. "@ahmedamla thx 4being a pillar of support throughout my entire career.will mis u on d field bro.time 4the backyard games 2resume."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent