Craig Kieswetter said an emotional farewell to the Somerset faithful before the club’s NatWest T20 Blast match at Taunton on Friday night.
Kiesy took to the field to acknowledge the crowd for a final time after announcing that he had reluctantly decided to end his professional cricketing career as a result of the horrific eye injury he suffered last summer.
As he stepped onto the pitch, a packed County Ground crowd rose as one in a fitting tribute to a special talent who had lit up the field of play with some of the most exciting strokeplay and clean hitting in the game; a talent whose career had been cut short far too soon.
It was a wonderful, impromptu response and Craig looked visibly moved by the reaction he received.
Today we publish a selection of photographs of a special moment taken by photographer Alex Davidson as the first part of a series of special tributes on The Incider.
Speaking before the game, Craig said: “After being given the opportunity to take some time off and step away from the game, I’ve come to the decision that wasn’t the easiest to make, yet I feel is the right one.
He explained to BBC Points West: “I came back and played a few games and got through on adrenaline and support. I [then] played a T20 comp [in South Africa in the autumn] and realised that physically my eye wasn’t quite right.”
He added: “When you have a physical thing it affects you mentally and you start to question yourself and your ability.
“There is a muscular injury but going through that trauma has pushed me back mentally. As a person if I can’t give 100% then I’d rather not let myself or the team down. It’s disappointing and tough but necessary for me.”
“There are so many people that I am grateful to yet most importantly I need to thank my family, without whom nothing I have achieved would have been possible. Their sacrifices to help me to be able to achieve some fantastic success defines the importance of family.
“I’d also like to thank Somerset County Cricket Club for giving me the opportunity to play as a professional, to help mould me and for their loyalty. It is a Club full of so many incredible people and with a great bunch of supporters.
“I would especially like to thank Brian Rose, the former Director of Cricket who gave me my first contract at Somerset, Andy Hurry who was my first team coach and Darren Veness who helped to make me into what I am today. These three guys have been huge influences to me in my career.”
Craig added: “I’ll have so many memories of a career that spanned nine years of my life during which I have made so many friends.”
He told the BBC: “You’ll probably see me on the sidelines with a cider in my hand!”
In First Class and List A cricket Craig averages just under 40, while in T20 he enjoyed an average of almost 32. Behind the stumps he took 308 catches and claimed 11 stumpings.
Between 2010 and 2012 Craig also played in 46 ODI’s and 25 T20I’s for England. As news of his enforced retirement was announced on Friday, his Twitter feed was filled with tributes and good luck messages from players from every county side in England and from cricket playing countries across the world.
Somerset Chief Executive Guy Lavender said: “This is awful news both for Craig and the club but we completely understand why he has come to this difficult decision.
“Craig has made an immense contribution to the success of Somerset and England since joining us.
“His performances with the bat and gloves have been outstanding and have endeared him to all cricket fans, not just at Somerset but right across the globe. “On behalf of the General Committee and all Somerset Members and supporters I would like to publically thank Craig for his superb contribution to Somerset and to wish him all the best fortune in his future endeavours. He will be greatly missed and will always receive a very warm welcome at the County Ground.”
Director of Cricket Matt Maynard said: “This is sad news for all concerned. Craig is a very popular member of the squad and has made a real impression on the club during his years here. He has been a major influence both on and off the field and will be missed by players, coaches, staff and fans alike.
“At his best Craig was one of, if not the most explosive ‘keeper-batsman’ in the game. He is an extremely gifted cricketer who could win a game on his own. His record speaks for itself and the game will miss him. I would have loved to have worked with him this year but it just wasn’t to be.”
“It’s a shame for all concerned,” Maynard told the BBC. “He could get back to a level that is fine to play, but not at a level that Craig aspired to be.”
Maynard added: “While the loss of Craig is a major blow we must not forget that we have two young and very talented ‘keepers’ at the Club in Alex Barrow and James Regan, whilst Marcus Trescothick is more than capable with the gloves as he has proved in this year’s NatWest T20 Blast.”
We will be publishing a full career retrospective and personal reminisces of Craig’s time at Somerset on The Incider later this summer. We wish him all the very best for the future and thank him for many great memories.