Wisden CricInfo staff
Alec Stewart has admitted that the time is right for England to blood a new one-day wicketkeeper ahead of the 2007 World Cup, although he remains determined to extend his Test career.
Speaking at The Oval, Stewart, who has just turned 40, made his motives clear and stressed that he had not used the term retirement at any stage. "It's my belief that England should now look forward to the next World Cup," he said. "Being honest, 2007 is beyond the goal I've set myself.
Stewart made his one-day debut against Sri Lanka at Delhi in the Nehru Cup in 1989-90, and has since played 170 matches, more than any other Englishman. He believes that the search for his replacement should begin now, although he has no intention of standing down voluntarily. "It's my opinion and if the selectors don't agree with it and want me to carry on then I will. But I think we should now give ourselves the best possible chance of winning the 2007 World Cup."
England's two-wicket defeat against Australia in their World Cup match at Port Elizabeth was the catalyst for Stewart's announcement. "I was very down and very disappointed then because I realised that it would be my last World Cup. I didn't want to dive in and make a rash decision but during the last couple of weeks I've come to this decision and I telephoned David Graveney to inform him of my thoughts.
"I said that if, as a group of selectors, they decide that Alec Stewart is still the best keeper for the one-day team and you want him to bat, then I'll be there for you and will always give one hundred percent, but I think now is the perfect time to plan for the future."
"I still believe that I'm the best person to keep wicket and bat at No. 6 in the Test side, and I hope the selectors will agree with that too. I'm looking forward to this summer when, hopefully, I'll put in some very good performances for England. I'm not walking away from cricket because I'm still fit enough and I believe I'm good enough to play in both forms of the game. But ideally they'll look at the younger element to give England the best chance of victory in 2007.
In his one-day career, Stewart scored 4,677 runs at 31.60 and took 159 catches and 15 stumpings. He captained England during the 1999 World Cup campaign and stepped in for Nasser Hussain during the recent match against Namibia. "If the one-day career is over, then it's over," said Stewart. "I can look back and feel very happy with what I achieved."
The main candidate to replace Stewart would appear to be Chris Read of Nottinghamshire, who played nine one-day internationals in 1999-2000, and has impressed at the ECB Academy this winter.