Former Irish international Albert van der Merwe has confirmed his retirement from all cricket.
Van Der Merwe, who turns 40 in June, enjoyed great success with Ireland, Leinster Lightning and at domestic level in both the NCU and Leinster.
In an in-depth article with CricketEurope, the current Leinster Lightning Head Coach spoke of the reasons behind the decision.
ďWeíre all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the childrenís game - we just donít know when that is gonna be. Some of us are told at 18 and some of us are told at 40. But weíre all told.Ē
"This quote definitely rings true, and Iím glad it to be the latter number. Iíve been incredibly fortunate to travel the world and meet people from various walks of life through cricket.
"In what was meant to be a one-off season in Northern Ireland with the NCU's Derriaghy Cricket Club in 2004 turned out to be fourteen more summers. My first year and taste of cricket in Ireland was incredibly enjoyable (as it has been ever since). It was all so different from South Africa. Instead of a changing room made up of students, first-class players and other young men vying for Provincial selection, I walked into a changing room with a real mixed bag.
"A father and son combination, a middle aged off-spinner who looked like Ron Jeremy, a 42 year old wicketkeeper with magic hands nicknamed the Silver Fox and a 38 year old Elvis-loving opening bowler who glided down the hill at Queensway.
"My first match was late April at Sandy Bay, Larne, on possibly the coldest cricketing day of my life. To complete the culture shock, warm-ups were a lap in the full whites. The decision to return to Northern shores in 2005 was made easier by being part of a team that won the league and reach the top flight of the NCU premier competition for the first time in the clubís then 84 year history.
"During my time at Derriaghy, I also had the great pleasure to play in the same team as my two younger brothers, Martin and Hennie in 2007. Martin previously played as overseas player for Dunmurry and Hennie made the NCU team of the year in 2009, whilst playing for Lisburn. As club coach during my time at Derriaghy, I was involved not only with the senior side but also the youth section where the club encouraged me to attain further coaching qualifications."
There was a switch to Leinster cricket in 2008, which led to international recognition. He explains how the move transpired.
"In July 2007 I had a couple of chance meetings in North Dublin. Firstly with Reinhardt Strydom, during an All-Ireland game at North County and then with Jim Bennett as I accompanied an NCU underage representative team to The Hills CC to play an LCU team.
"I (successfully) applied for an advertised Youth Development Officer role at The Hills CC a month later and my journey into Leinster cricket followed at the start of 2008. In Leinster I was fortunate to represent two very successful clubs in The Hills and YMCA. League and Senior Cup winners medals with both clubs were very special. Captaining the latter to win the league for the first time in 20 years is something that Iím very proud of.
"Both clubs also gave me a great opportunity to further cut my coaching teeth. The Hills in the CDO role and YMCA in Head Coach role. During this time I was fortunate to play, work and learn alongside people like John Wills, Matt Dwyer, Angus Dunlop, Alan Lewis, Jeremy Bray, Trent Johnston and the great Kamal Merchant."
Van Der Merwe won 21 caps between 2010 and 2012, taking 40 wickets at 22.35.
That haul included 11 wickets in a game against Kenya, which helped Ireland win the InterContinental Cup. Those figures are the best this century for the Irish in a first-class game and the 21st best overall.
He was part of the 2011 World Cup squad, but he and Nigel Jones never made it onto the field during the six-week competition.
"The icing on the cake most definitely was representing Ireland. Playing under Adrian Birrell for the A-side initially and then under Phil Simmons for the national side was a real privilege.
"Being part of a World Cup Squad and being named Man of the Match versus Kenya in the Inter-Continental Cup are fond and proud memories. Coaching was where I saw myself and calling time on my International Career at the end of 2012 was hard.
"Trying to juggle work with the ever increasing demand and schedule of high performance sport was a deciding factor."
Although he called time on his Ireland commitments, Albie played a pivotal role for Leinster Lightning in the newly relaunched interpro series, and he captured 33 wickets at 22.74, as well as making some telling contributions with the bat in the longer Championship matches.
"I enjoyed the subsequent couple of years in the (then) new Interprovincial Series as a Leinster Lightning player and it has certainly made the coaching role I am in now with Leinster Lightning easier in terms of knowing the culture, traditions and what has and hasnít worked in the past.
"It has also been a contributing factor in calling time on my own playing career. Lightning responsibilities are ever increasing as we keep treading forward on the professional path. Add to that a career outside of cricket and the body giving me subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) hints over the last few years - it just feels that the time is right."
The current Lightning coach also revealed he has been working on his umpiring qualifications, and may soon be donning the white coat.
"Recently I completed the first two ECB Umpiring Stages, so Iím looking forward making my way back to the middle when time allows, albeit in a different capacity.
"Iíve absolutely lived and breathed club cricket over the last nearly decade and a half. Club cricket is unique and special on this island. It has a rich history and an incredible important part to play in the sustainability and growth of our game for the future. It needs to be handled with due care and attention.
"I look forward staying involved with coaching and officiating club games in the future or taking up a seat at ďcritics cornerĒ on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon."
To finish, Albie selected his two hybrid (Cricket Leinster/NCU) teams of players Iíve played more than one game with or against. An Irish Eligible and an Overseas team. (Current Leinster Lightning players excluded).
My Club Team
- Jeremy Bray
- Dom Joyce
- David Kennedy
- John Anderson
- Andre Botha
- John Mooney
- Trent Johnston
- Kyle McCallan
- Fintan McAllister (wk)
- Regan West
- Naseer Shoukat
- Ryan Haire
My Club Overseas Professional Team
- Amay Khurisaya (Lisburn)
- Ben Dunk (wk) (Trinity & YMCA)
- Daniel Solway (Pembroke)
- Charlie Wakim (Clontarf)
- Ijaz Ahmed (Waringstown)
- Obus Pienaar (Waringstown & Clontarf)
- Rod Hokin (Clontarf)
- Carlos Brathwaite (Leinster)
- Ewen Thompson (CSNI)
- James Boyland(North County)
- Matt Petrie (Merrion)
- Jac Arunkumar (Downpatrick)