Chief Cricket Writer George Dobell on Nick Knight, who announced yesterday that he would retire after this summer...

How typical that a batsman of Nick Knight's class should time his departure so well.

As the finest English one-day player of his generation -and quite possibly any other - Knight enjoyed an almost innate ability of timing an innings.

He will go out on his own terms and with the audience crying for more. What's more, his departure will ensure that the youngsters jostling for places in the wings will have full opportunity to express their talents.

Quite fitting for a man who has done so much to ensure the development of the next generation of Warwickshire players.

His decision is not a huge shock. It is no secret that he has flirted with a media career for some time while there were times last year when he looked exhausted, mentally and physically.

"I know I'll miss it," he told The Post yesterday.

"The dressing-room, the team environment; just being part of a great club. But it's the right time. I won't be having second thoughts."

There were attempts to dissuade him, just as there were when he stepped down from the captaincy. To the same effect. Knight is a man who knows his own mind and, once it's decided, is not the type to be swayed.

"I've been thinking about it for several months. Yes, there were conversations where people tried to persuade me to play on for another season or two, but my mind was made up. Heath Streak and Mark Greatbatch have known for a while.

"It's the same as when I retired from the England oneday side: I'd known - my family had known - for months that I would retire after the World Cup. It freed me up to play some of the best cricket of my career and I very much hope I can do the same thing this season.

"There's no problem this year. I was nervous batting against Oxford the other day, which is a good sign.

"I still care, I'm still in good shape and I can still, hopefully, do a good job for the team. I'm fine for this season. I've stood up in front of the team and told them that, too, though I think it probably went without saying."

How will Knight be remembered? As a brilliant one-day opener, with an incredible ability to pace an innings and enough shots to infuriate the best?

As the most reliable batsman in Warwickshire's history? None of the men who have scored more than 10,000 first-class runs for the club have done so at a better average.

Or perhaps he'll be remembered for leading a young and unfancied Warwickshire side to the Championship in 2004. It was a remarkable success, built upon a strong team ethic, mountains of runs and a policy of backing 'home grown' talent.

It is somewhat ironic, then, that he previously had a reputation - as do most successful opening batsmen - of being somewhat selfish.

As a captain he could not have been more selfless. He shunned the option of over-seas and Kolpak players (though a couple were foisted upon him) and instead put trust in the county's youth system.

He took the long-term view when the easy option was to recruit from overseas. His team respected him for it, and the club will be stronger for it long, long after his departure.

"I'm very pleased with that," he said. "I feel the club is in great shape now and we helped put a few things in place over those couple of years. Those guys we brought in; Naqassh, 'Westy' and Anyon, should all be good players for the club."

That period of captaincy probably hastened Knight's departure, however. The enormous strain of leading a young and inexperienced side weighed heavy and there was an element of the Pyrrhic in that 2004 victory.

"The captaincy really did take it out of me. Mentally it was gruelling. I loved it, but it left me feeling shattered and that's probably been some sort of a factor in this. I wasn't a natural captain. I really had to work at it. I was thinking all the time; I had to, it was never instinctive.

"It came at the right time, though. My own game was pretty much in order and it was a new challenge. I'm proud of that part of my career, but it was very hard work.

"We were trying to bring through some young players and I never believed that we could win the Championship. To be honest we were aiming at winning it this year."

Such modesty is far from atypical. Remarkably for a man with such a distinguished record, he revealed a surprising lack of confidence in his own ability.

"People just don't know how hard I find batting," he said. "I have to work incredibly hard at it, and that takes it toll.

"I do wish I'd understood [the principles of] technique better. I've thought loads about my batting. I've worked really hard and yet it's still a real struggle.

"I've been lucky to work with some great coaches but I still find batting bloody difficult. I have to give it every ounce and feel that, at this level, unless I can do that with total commitment and desire, it's time to go.

"I know it sounds odd but I was never at my best last season. I scored ten centuries, I know, but I didn't bat well. You know that. I think you wrote that! I know that may seem arrogant but I don't really know how I scored that many runs.

"Even in 2002, when I was in the form of my career, it was hard! I was battling away all the time. I just don't think I can summon the will to fight like that any more.

"Maybe I've achieved everything I wanted from the game. Maybe. What I do know is that if you had told me when I was 21 that I would have had this career I would have laughed at you. I'm a lucky man.

"There are so many things I'll cherish: playing for England; winning trophies; just being part of this great club. I love it here and I'll miss the dressing-room more than anything."

He is guarded about his plans for the future, saying only that he had "a few things in the pipeline." It would be a surprise if he were to be lost to the game entirely, and a role in the media beckons. He will, no doubt, make a great success of it.

"I can't see me coaching full time, though you never know, and I can't see me playing club cricket. Maybe in a couple of years I'll wake up and think how much I'd enjoy a game.

"I'm not the sentimental type. I'm not going to be looking around the Hove dressing-rooms next week with a tear in my eye."

Warwickshire are not without young pretenders for Knight's position. Ian Westwood and Navdeep Poonia have it in them to be fine county players. But Knight's departure will, inevitably, leave a chasm at the top of the order.

In one-day cricket, in particular, he is still a country mile ahead of anyone in the team, or indeed, anyone else who has played for the team. His 22 one-day centuries for Warwickshire almost doubles the figure of his closest rival; Alvin Kallicharran.

Perhaps Knight never developed into a truly great player. A Test average of 24 barely hints at a player who scored a century in his fifth Test against a Pakistan attack that included Waqar, Wasim and Mushtaq Ahmed.

Had he been recalled, as he surely should have been, for the Ashes tour of 2002-03, that record might be much improved. We shall never know.

His record at Warwickshire bears comparison with the best, however. Nobody, not Amiss, not Dollery, not Kanhai or M J K Smith, scored 10,000 Championship runs in fewer innings; only 223.

And, in triumph and disappointment, he remained accessible to supporters and the media. His popularity is not just due to his prolific batting or superb fielding.

He deserves all the plaudits he will receive throughout the season, and remains a credit to his club, his family and his sport; no player could wish for more.