That Jonathan Trott would plan every innings to the utmost was at his peak something that English cricket came to value enormously. So it should be no surprise that he has announced that he will retire at the end of the season more than four months early. Certainty restored, he can now aim for a final flourish.
Trott might not have been the most flamboyant or crowd-pleasing cricketer ever to represent England, but there was substance a plenty to him, enough for Andy Flower, then England’s coach, to describe him as England’s rock.
He scored a century on his England debut, was a three-times Ashes winner (you could make a case for him winning two of them) and was a key cog in an England team that reached No 1 ranking in the world.
“Choosing to retire at the end of the season is something that I have spoken about at length with my family and this is now the right time to look at the next chapter of my career.
“Warwickshire CCC is a very special club and I’ve been immensely proud to have worn the Bear & Ragged Staff throughout my career. We’ve made a strong start to the 2018 season and I hope that I can make a major contribution to more success in my final year at Edgbaston as a player.”
“You want to be up front about a decision like this and Warwickshire is a club that is always looking to the future so I wanted to let them know that this is my decision so it won’t be sprung upon them at the end of the season and they can start planning.
“It hasn’t been that difficult a decision. When you have played at a club for as long as I have it is important that not only is the decision right for you but it’s also right for the club.”
All in all, a 17-year career brought 52 Test caps and 68 ODI appearances, but there was nothing instant about Trott’s emergence. For many years, he was a dedicated and uncomplaining servant of county cricket, initially trialling with Warwickshire in 2002 and signing his first professional contract two years later after scoring an impressive 245 on debut for the second team. He followed this with a century in his first-class debut against Sussex in 2003, and he went on to play a leading role in Warwickshire’s County Championship triumph in 2004.
England came calling, perhaps belatedly, in the deciding game of the 2009 Ashes series. Four years earlier, they had gambled on the effervescence of Kevin Pietersen; now they gambled again, on the Bovril equivalent: something substantial, meaty, decidedly untrendy.
Once again, the risk paid off as his second innings century helped secure a memorable victory at The Oval. Ashes wins followed in the 2010-11 series in Australia and the home series in 2013. He also won the finest individual accolade in the international game by winning the Garfield Sobers Trophy for ICC Cricketer of the Year, a fact that went largely unheralded.
His last Ashes tour was to end in sadness as he left the tour with a stress-related illness. Some of the ill-informed comments suggesting that he could not handle the pace of Mitchell Johnson should not be allowed to demean him. This was a batsman who thrived on difficulty If he was broken by anything – and fine sportsmen are allowed to be broken – it was the exhaustion deepened by perfectionism.
Ashley Giles, sport director of Warwickshire, paid tribute. “Trotty will be remembered as one the greatest batsmen to have played for Warwickshire and England in the 21st century,” he said.
“He made an immediate impact upon arrival at Edgbaston by scoring such a high volume of runs, and he has gone on to be part of one most successful periods in the club’s history, with five major trophies won across all formats.
“At international level, he played a major role in one of the best England teams of the last 50 years; a team that went top of the world rankings, but which also won the Ashes in Australia for the first time in 25 years.”
His retirement announcement, at 37, comes as no surprise, except for the fact that it might well have happened at the end of last season when Warwickshire were relegated and, like another Warwickshire and former England stalwart, Ian Bell, he struggled for runs.
He leaves at a time when substance is under challenge from froth and instability, encapsulated by the ECB’s plans for 100-ball cricket. There would be no time for Trott’s prolonged scratching of his guard in that, little praise for reconnaissance, for the artful nudges of his hips, for his analytical approach to limited-overs run chases.
Perhaps that approach did become outdated. And perhaps England did not recognise it soon enough. It feels something of an anachronism that Trott is still Warwickshire’s leading Twenty20 runscorer. But he need not over-analyse that because he has served England and Warwickshire nobly.
The announcement made, his mind settled, it would be no surprise to find that a few more bowling attacks will suffer before the season is through.