Alex Blackwell, the Australia vice-captain, has announced her retirement from international and state cricket at age 34. She will, however, continue captaining her Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) side, Sydney Thunder.
The announcement comes a day after Blackwell, Australia's most-capped international player with 251 international appearances, struck a near run-a-ball 76 for her state team New South Wales in the Women's National Cricket League (WNCL), the domestic 50-overs tournament. A few months ago, in the international arena, Blackwell played an integral role in the multi-format Ashes in October-November, helping the side retain the urn. Her decision means Australia women will be without her experience when they tour India in less than a month from now, for an ODI series and a T20I tri-series featuring the hosts and England.
With 13 WNCL titles, and a World T20 win and an Ashes victory as captain under her belt, Blackwell had previously spoken of playing on until the next 2021 World Cup. However, she said she felt good to go out on a high now. "I think it's really nice to be able to finish at a time when I feel my game has never felt stronger," Blackwell told Cricket Australia's website. "I also become increasingly interested and excited about the opportunities that lie ahead, that may require my playing days to wrap up.
"[Retirement] probably creeps into your mind well in advance of the moment. The decision to retire was final in this season, I'm happy about that decision and excited about the opportunities again."
Among the many highs of her career, Blackwell felt her most memorable highlights were the low-scoring final that gave Australia their third consecutive World T20 title, and an injured Ellyse Perry's heroics in the 2013 World Cup final against West Indies.
With an international career spanning almost 15 years, and 5250 runs across formats, taking up coaching or mentoring is a possibility Blackwell said she could consider outside of her WBBL commitments. "I believe I'll always be involved in cricket in some capacity," Blackwell said. "To have a career as long as I have, you accumulate many skills and expertise and experiences which you can share. I would hope that's not lot to the game so my intention would be to still be involved in some capacity."
Blackwell will take the field for NSW one last time on Saturday, in the final against Western Australia at Blacktown, where she'll be on the cusp of another WNCL title as captain. "We've got a big match on Saturday and I let the [NSW] Breakers know my decision last night so we could really enjoy the week," Blackwell said. "I'm setting myself to enjoy this week and prepare the best I can to help keep the Ruth Preddey Trophy in New South Wales."
Apart from her cricketing accomplishments, including the distinction of being the leading run-scorer for NSW in the WNCL with 4764 runs at 47.17 from 138 matches, Blackwell is regarded as one of the most approachable practioners of the sport by the cricketing fraternity across the world. Known to have often shared her expertise with players from lower-ranked countries, Blackwell's generosity reaped appreciation across social media after she gifted her jersey to India's Harmanpreet Kaur, whom she also captains at Sydney Thunder, as a gesture of appreciation for the latter's 171 not out that knocked Australia out of the World Cup in the semi-final last year.