Zafar Ansari, the Surrey and England all-rounder, has announced his retirement from cricket with immediate effect, it was announced on Wednesday (April 26).
The 25-year-old made his Test debut for England during the winter against Bangladesh and also played in the subsequent series against India but is well-known to have many interests outside the professional game of which he is now keen to pursue.
A hugely intelligent man, Ansari gained a double first in politics and sociology from Cambridge University and is a gifted concert pianist. Last year, he completed a Master’s degree in history at Royal Holloway, University of London and is now understood to be considering a career in Law.
As a left-arm spinner and middle-order batsman, Ansari played 71 first-class games in all, scoring over 3000 runs at an average of 29.79 and taking 128 wickets at 35.87. He also played in a further 111 limited overs games including a single One-Day International against Ireland in 2015 which was abandoned because of rain.
After a difficult winter – he told BBC Sport this week that he had not been ready for his Test debut – Ansari had played just one of Surrey’s three Championship games so far this season and clearly feels the time is right to pursue his other interests.
“After seven years as a professional cricketer and almost two decades in total playing the game, I have decided to bring my cricket career to an end,” said Ansari.
“This has been a very difficult decision to make and I have not made it lightly. I started playing for Surrey at the age of 8 and the club has been a hugely important part of my life since then. Surrey have always completely supported me and I am extremely grateful to the club for their backing over the years. It is, therefore, with great sadness that I say goodbye.
“Nevertheless, I have always been clear that when the time was right for me to move on I would, and that time has now come. While the timing may come as a surprise, I have always maintained that cricket was just one part of my life and that I have other ambitions that I want to fulfill. With that in mind, I am now exploring another career, potentially in law, and to achieve this I have to begin the process now.
“I will look back extremely fondly on playing with some wonderful teams and having the opportunity to perform in front of the best crowds in county cricket at the Kia Oval. Equally, to have played three Test matches for England was a huge honour and it is something I will undoubtedly savour for the rest of my life. Most of all, I will miss the people with whom I have shared my career and I cherish the relationships that I’ve formed along the way.
“I would like to thank Surrey and its fans for the way they have supported and encouraged me over the last 17 years. I am now looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life, but I know that Surrey will always feel like a home to me.”
Whether a difficult winter – Ansari took just five wickets in three Tests and scored 55 runs – had any bearing on the decision is had to tell but the timing suggests it may have done. There is also no doubt that his decision will disappoint England’s management who have been keen admirers of his for a number of years. He would have toured the UAE with England in the winter of 2015 had it not been for a hand injury.
Alec Stewart, Director of Cricket at Surrey CCC, said: “Zafar’s exceptionally tough but considered decision is one that we should all respect and understand. To retire at such a young age when his cricket career was progressing very nicely, earning a Test debut against Bangladesh last winter, proves that he has given great thought in deciding to walk away from the professional game.
“He is one of our own, having come through our age group and academy system where he first played for the county at the age of eight. Throughout his time with Surrey he has represented the club with great pride and skill. He will be missed by all his Surrey team mates, members and supporters and I speak on behalf of everyone in thanking him for his loyal service.
“We wish Zafar the very best in whatever the future holds for him and he will always be welcomed back to the Kia Oval with open arms.”