Graeme Hick will finish his career at Worcestershire after signing a new contract for the 2007 season. The 40-year-old former England batsman was linked with a move to Derbyshire. Having recently become the second batsman after Geoff Boycott to score 100 first-class centuries for a single county since the war, Hick has also decided against retirement.
The idea of Hick playing for another club was unthinkable to many including, it appears, the man himself. Having first represented the club in 1984 and scored more than 29,000 first-class runs (and another 15,000 in List A cricket) for them, Hick has put down roots at New Road. He is reaping the rewards of a testimonial season and is as much a part of the club as the view of the Cathedral and the teas in the Ladies Pavilion. One might as well try to move the Malvern Hills.
"It was flattering to hear that another county was interested but my heart was always with Worcestershire," Hick said at New Road yesterday. "I've played here all my career and I wouldn't want to go anywhere else.
"There would have been a couple of positive points in going to Derbyshire. I had a chat with them and listened to what they had to say but in the end I just couldn't. It just wouldn't have felt right to play in any other colours. And I couldn't have played against Worcestershire; I'd have had to sit that game out. The speculation has been a bit frustrating. I feel I'm fit and contributing on the field, so why wouldn't I carry on?"
There were moments when even Hick had his doubts, however. Concerns about his form, and even his appetite for the game, resulted in a period of reflection and a visit to an optometrist. Having averaged only 34 in first-class cricket in 2005, he started this season with some low scores.
He said: "At the end of last season there were a couple of questions that I needed to answer. I struggled with runs and the spirit in the dressing-room wasn't so good. I know I finished 2005 with a century, and that we had played on some pretty difficult surfaces. But I had struggled before that and I needed to prove to myself that I could still do it and that I still had the hunger to do it.
"My children's eyes were checked in the winter, so I took the opportunity of having mine checked as well. It was very thorough and I'm told they'll be all right for another ten years; perhaps I'll play 'til I'm 50!"
"If he wants to play until he's 50 - and if he emulates Sir Jack Hobbs and scores 100 first-class centuries after his 40th birthday - then we'll be happy to have him," Mark Newton, the club's chief executive, said.
Although such longevity is highly unlikely, next season is not necessarily Hick's last. "At this stage I'm just going to take it a season at a time," he said. "We'll see how I feel this time next year."
Hick accepts that he will not score the runs that he has in the past but is confident he still has a role to play. "I know I probably won't score the 1,500-runs a season I might have done," he says. "But, batting at five, you just don't get the innings. Batting at five is fine - I'm still not convinced that it's the right place for me in one-day cricket - but it's the role that the captain and coach see me in, but I'm part of a team and I have a job to do."
The prospect of playing Division One Championship cricket is also appetising, though Hick says: "We were outplayed by Surrey and still have Essex to play. There's a lot more cricket to play before anything is settled."
Hick's signing does not complete Worcestershire's strengthening for next season. Decisions have to be made on younger players out of contract (Darryl Mitchell, Shaftab Khalid, Richard Jones, Stuart Wedge, Josh Knappett, Will Gifford and Ed Foster) while the club are also looking to recruit a couple of younger players from other counties.
"The only player we've made an offical approach for is Moeen Ali," John Elliott, the club's chairman, said. "He is a very talented young man who could give us 20 years' service. There are a couple of other areas where we would like to strengthen but we have to accept we don't have the finances to compete with some other teams."
Hick's longer-term future remains a blank canvas. He claims to have enjoyed writing for The Post - it will wear off, I tell him - and doesn't rule out a long-term career in the media.