England will miss his commitment and selflessness

“It’s a difficult decision because I’m saying goodbye to something that’s not just my job but something I’ve done since I was five or six,” Giles said after announcing his retirement. Here is an appreciation by Lawrence Booth.

The beginning of the end of an era was signalled when Ashley Giles became the first member of England’s 2005 Ashes-winning squad to announce his retirement. Giles, who took 143 wickets in 54 Tests with his left-arm spin and won an MBE for his part in the defeat of Australia, took the decision after advice from Dr. Marc Philippon, who carried out a third operation on his troublesome hip in Colorado in April. “It’s the right decision,” said Giles. 220;I’m only 34 and I don’t want to be a cripple in five years. I’ve got a life to lead and kids to play with.”

The transition from being

what Michael Vaughan described as “one of the most underrated cricketers ever to pull on an England shirt” into a family man and part-time radio commentator has been a long time in coming. A chronic hip injury meant Giles played only four Tests after hitting a crucial 59 to help secure the Ashes-winning draw two years ago and he had not played at all since December. All the while the progress of his fellow slow left-armer Monty Panesar spelt the writing on the wall, even if Giles briefly ousted him in Australia over the winter.

“It’s a difficult decision

because I’m saying goodbye to something that’s not just my job but something I’ve done since I was five or six,” he said. “I had my fair share of criticism but that comes with the territory. Being considered a good bloke — that’s how you want to leave the game. You’re a short time a cricketer and a long time a human being and, if I can be considered a decent one of them, then that’s the most important thing. I’ve got no regrets.”

His value to a close-knit England side was not always reflected by his statistics. Of the 141 bowlers who have claimed 100 or more Test wickets only Carl Hooper, Nicky Boje and Ravi Shastri averaged more per victim than Giles’s 40.60. But high-profile jaffas to Inzamam-ul-Haq, Brian Lara and Damien Martyn briefly silenced critics and his gutsy efforts at No. 8 provided psychological comfort for the middle order. Duncan Fletcher described him as the most professional cricketer he had ever worked with.

There were low points too.

In Australia last winter he dropped Ricky Ponting in the second Test at Adelaide before returning home early to be with his wife, Stine, who had been diagnosed with a brain tumour. Happily it proved benign. England will miss his commitment and selflessness.