England spinner Zafar Ansari quits cricket at 25 to pursue a career in law

Nick Hoult
Ansari in action for England in November  - AP

Zafar Ansari has retired from cricket in order to pursue a career in the legal profession, just four months after playing his third, and final, Test for England.

Ansari’s retirement comes as a surprise even though he never hid the fact that cricket was always only “just one part of my life”.

His academic achievements, Ansari has a double first in politics, philosophy and sociology from Cambridge University and a Master's degree in history from Royal Holloway, offer him opportunities outside of bowling left-arm spin.

He endured a tough winter with England and admitted in an interview earlier this week how difficult he found the step up from county to international cricket.

At 25 he still had plenty of time to improve on his weaknesses, and carve out an international career, but after returning to pre-season for Surrey, and playing a Championship match against Lancashire, he decided he no longer had the necessary ambition to keep going. 

Ansari of England celebrates after taking Tamim Iqbal's wicket in the second Test in Dhaka Credit: Getty Images

“When he came back he threw himself into pre-season training but he just knew something was missing, the desire and hunger,” said Alec Stewart, Surrey’s director of cricket. “Because he is such an honest and good lad he did not want to be cheating himself and therefore his team-mates and the club in the fact he was not up for each game. He thought his time was up.”

Ansari took five wickets in three Tests and made his debut in Dhaka back in October when England suffered their first ever defeat to Bangladesh. He played the first two Tests of the India series but struggled with illness during his final game and faded from sight. A back injury eventually cut short his tour. 

Time spent in hotel rooms surrounded by heavy security, combined with the pressure of performance, makes touring a tough life for some and Ansari admitted he struggled at times in India with the whole package of being an international cricketer. The fact his life did not revolve around cricket, unlike many of his team-mates, perhaps left him wondering if it was all worth while. 

“When you dedicate so much of your time to something and you are known for that thing it is difficult to say 'well you know cricket is just a hobby or something I do for fun',” he told the BBC. “Balancing that reality with what I tried to bring to it and in terms of appreciating its insignificance in a broader way.”

Zafar Ansari found touring with England tough Credit: REUTERS

Ansari had different interests from his team-mates but he was not unpopular on tour, he was just happier reading for his 40,000 word Phd dissertation than joining in the PlayStation competitions.  

“He can be seen at times reading a novel when the rest of our boys are colouring in a book. That is how it is,” said Stewart.

Ansari suffered his share of bad luck. He was called up for the tour to Pakistan in 2015 but suffered a horrible thumb injury only hours after learning of his selection and missed the trip. He was then thrown into an India tour, the toughest of all for a fairly inexperienced English county spin bowler.

His batting improved when he was promoted to opener two years ago by Surrey and he fitted the bill for an England side looking for a spinner who could bat. But he burst onto the scene as a bowler with Alastair Cook his maiden first-class wicket and in his third match took 5-33, including the wicket of Kevin Pietersen. 

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