Triumphant farewells are difficult to stage manage in county cricket and so it has proved this week for Mark Wagh, the Nottinghamshire and former Warwickshire batsman.
Wagh knew a year ago that he would be retiring from county cricket midway through this season to start a new career as a lawyer.
No doubt he would have chosen to go out by making a century in his final scheduled innings against Lancashire at Southport in late July and contributing to another County Championship title for Nottinghamshire.
Instead Wagh led Nottinghamshire rather sheepishly through a guard of honour formed by his team mates after a six-wicket defeat at New Road while the loudest applause was reserved for Worcestershire pair Moeen Ali and Alexei Kervezee.
Wagh’s retirement plans were advanced after a wretched start to his final season as a professional cricketer after he mustered just 195 runs in 14 Championship innings. He was going to play no part in the Friends Life t20 and once it became clear that his place would be taken by a fit-again Neil Edwards when Nottinghamshire return to Championship action later this month, Wagh knew it was time to go.
Far better, too, to say goodbye on a headquarters ground rather than in the anonymity of Second XI cricket.
Wagh signalled his change of career two years ago when he enrolled on a law course in Nottingham. He has since combined the demands of first-class cricket with part-time studying and, as always, enjoying life to the full.
Last winter he cycled alone from John O’Groats to Land’s End for charity, spent time in Rio de Janeiro learning capoeira – a combination of martial arts and dance – and diving in Thailand.
With the benefit of hindsight, Wagh should have retired on a high after Nottinghamshire won the County Championship title last September. Trying to manage the transformation from cricketer to lawyer during the course of the summer was always going to be demanding, even for someone as adaptable as Wagh.
When he looks back on his cricket career Wagh will know that he never quite fulfilled his talent. From an early age Warwickshire had him marked down as a potential Test player and a likely county captain.
Wagh did neither. A knee injury sustained when he tripped over his own feet playing football scuppered his Test hopes, though he was once named in an extended England World Cup squad.
He impressed as a captain at Oxford University but his inquisitive mind and sharp intellect did not endear him to Bob Woolmer and Mark Greatbatch, two of his coaches at Warwickshire, and some of his county team-mates.
Eventually weighed down by club politics, Wagh successfully secured his release from his Warwickshire contract and spent five contented years at Trent Bridge, a ground where few batsmen flourish, under the intuitive man-management of Mick Newell, Nottinghamshire’s director of cricket.
At his best, Wagh was a glorious strokemaker who could bat for a long time – more than ten hours for his career-best 315 against Middlesex at Lord’s in 2001. He also enjoyed batting against Warwickshire and made two hundreds against them at Edgbaston.
But Wagh always gave the bowlers a chance and the best of them felt that he was easy to set up, which perhaps explains why he never got the chance to test himself at international level. His fielding – somewhere between Monty Panesar and Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks – would have made him a cult figure, albeit for the wrong reasons.
But a record of 12,455 first-class runs at an average close to 39 with 31 centuries and 58 fifties is one to be proud of. Mark Wagh’s retirement suggests that cricket’s loss will be a considerable gain for the legal profession.