He enjoyed a successful career playing cricket but Graham Thorpe has learned there's a lot more to life than sport, as he told Chris Pryke...

As the sun sets on a momentous season for English cricket, one man who was a key member of the national team for more than a decade is already busy looking to the future.

Graham Thorpe, for so long one of the mainstays of England?s middle order and one of only eight Englishmen to win 100 Test caps, is preparing for a life that will no longer involve playing first-class cricket.

At the start of the summer, Thorpe was still part of the England side and played in the two Tests against Bangladesh. By summer?s end, he was retired but he has no regrets.

?I feel it?s the right time,? he said. ?I?ve had my fair share of injections and pain-killers to play over the past three or four years.

?I?m 36, England finished a quarter of the way through the summer for me and I really didn?t want to drag my heels playing in county cricket. Surrey have probably got enough batsmen coming through and I just felt it was the right decision.?

Thorpe was, without doubt, one of the finest English batsmen of his generation. He began his first-class career in 1988 and finished it with 21,937 runs at an average of just over 45. He scored 49 centuries, with a highest score of 223 not out.

His 100 Tests brought him 6,744 runs at 44.66, with 16 hundreds and a top score of 200 not out. He announced himself on the international stage with a century in the second innings of his debut Test against Australia at Trent Bridge in 1993.

Throughout his career he battled against back problems, but had started the 2005 season hopeful of one final tilt at the Australians.

But England?s selectors decided to go with the young guard of Warwickshire?s Ian Bell and Hampshire?s Kevin Pietersen and so the chance never came.

He said: ?I was only disappointed at the beginning. Fortunately, life?s treated me very well over the last few years away from cricket and anything that?s happened on the pitch hasn?t really affected me a lot.

?My baby daughter, Emma, came along two weeks after and things have moved on very fast. I was able to watch the cricket just as a supporter, I didn?t feel detached from it at all.?

And Thorpe was very impressed with how the national side performed.

?I thought they were fantastic,? he said. ?I was in the team meeting at the beginning of the summer where you?re trying to set your goals for the summer and how you?re going to attack certain players in teams and England couldn?t have done it any better.

?The way they were able to execute all the plans was fantastic and it was a cricket series played in good spirit as well - there were a lot of pats on the back, as well as some really hard cricket played.?

Now England face an equally big challenge during the winter in Pakistan and India.

Thorpe said: ?Paki-stan and India are a challenge for any cricketer. I always found going to the sub-continent rounded you off as a cricketer. It?s a real challenge if you can conquer playing in Asia.

?It was a great achievement in 2000 [when England beat Pakistan 1-0 in a three-Test series] because England?s reputation in the sub- continent wasn?t highly thought-of by the teams we were going to play there, but now I think they both respect us.

?I think India will be a fantastic series. Pakistan will be tough because occupying yourself away from the cricket is quite difficult.?

And while England head to the sub-continent, Thorpe will be heading in another direction - to take up a coaching post in New South Wales, Australia.

He said: ?I?m going in January until the end of March. It?s nice when you do finish playing to have another challenge and to put yourself in a different environment socially and culturally, but it?s good to still be involved in cricket as well. It?s going to be nice to work with guys who want to play cricket.?

Thorpe has recently published his autobiography Rising from the Ashes, a very honest and forthright account of his career and the impact his divorce and his battles to see his son and daughter had on his private and professional lives.

His personal problems affected him so badly that he withdrew from international cricket for more than a year and gave up playing the game entirely at one point during 2002. But Thorpe said he was determined the book should be as truthful and honest as possible.

?Throughout my whole career, I wore my heart on my sleeve,? he said. ?I thought that if I was going to do a book, I had to talk about things honestly. These are the problems I had and it just became an easier book to do.

?If you?re trying to hide issues, it makes it very difficult to put it down on paper. I was quite happy with the balance of the book. I didn?t want to do a book where it was ?I woke up and it was 120 for four and I had orange juice for breakfast?.?

Now settled with a new partner and young family, Thorpe is happy with his life and optimistic about what the future might hold, now he?s stopped playing cricket.

He said: ?It?s like at 36 I?m having a gap year, but I?m certainly keeping an eye on the future, whether that may be doing some work with television or with radio. Coaching may be something, in three or four years time, I take up more seriously.

?In the meantime, I?ll be relaxing with my family. Certainly my outlook on life has changed an awful lot and that?s the nice thing. I?ve learned a lot about life through sport.? 

* Rising from the Ashes: the autobiography by Graham Thorpe is published by Collins Willow, priced #18.99