August 26, 2013, and a (hopefully) sunny Bank Holiday Monday afternoon at Edgbaston will be a time and place of some significance for Warwickshire and, indeed, county cricket.
Not because of the Bears’ YB40 game against Northamptonshire in itself. With Warwickshire’s 40-over campaign long since dead in the water, their final group fixture will matter little.
But it now transpires that the match will deliver a small slice of history. It will be Darren Maddy’s last game as a professional cricketer.
Having drifted to the periphery of Warwickshire’s team planning, the 39-year-old has decided to bring an end to one of the most accomplished playing careers of his generation. First, with Leicestershire and England and then, since 2006, the Bears, Maddy’s all-round skills have expedited much success for colleagues and provided much entertainment for spectators for the best part of two decades.
He admits that August 26 will be a very emotional day, although that powerful occasion – the valedictory match – would have arrived 11 months earlier, when the Bears faced Hampshire in last year’s CB40 final at Lord’s, if things had turned out slightly differently then.
In a thrilling climax to the final, Neil Carter needed to score one off the last ball to seal victory. He swung and missed. It was Carter’s last act as a Warwickshire player and, had he scored the requisite run, Maddy would have joined him in retirement.
“If Neil had hit that last ball for four, I might well have retired then,” he said. “That would have been a great way to go, having just won a final at the home of cricket. The perfect ending.
“It wasn’t meant to be and, with a winter’s training, I thought I would give it another good last crack this year.
“But the decision has been made easier for me by not playing four-day cricket. The club have very definite plans for their long-term future with bringing on younger players and I totally understand that.
“I have always loved everything about being a professional cricketer but, to be absolutely honest, my motivation levels have declined a little bit. When you are in and out of the first team it is harder to motivate yourself and push yourself to be the best that you can be and then come into the side for one-day cricket.
“I still really love playing cricket, all forms of the game, but it is the days in between that become harder, the training days and the pressure that goes into playing. That does start to take its toll on the body and the mind.
“I have been carrying these thoughts of retirement around for a while and now it’s a relief that it is out there. But then comes the thought that the reality is that our last YB40 game, against Northamptonshire at Edgbaston, will be my last game as a professional cricketer.”
At various points between now and then, emotions will run high – as they already have done. Pressed into action, due to injuries, against Yorkshire in the championship at Edgbaston in mid-May, Maddy played his 282nd first-class match. He knew it would be his last so was determined to play one final big innings, only to make only five before agonisingly edging the last ball before lunch to the wicketkeeper.
“I knew that would be my last first-class match so called my dad the night before and he came over from Leicester to watch,” he said. “I was really determined to make it a special innings and I was playing nicely up to that last ball before lunch. I couldn’t believe that I had nicked it.
“I think it was the slowest walk-off I have ever done. I sat there with my pads on in the changing room. It was a lot to take in.
“Looking back over my career I am very proud of all that has happened. On the other hand, I don’t think there is a professional sportsman who gets to the end of his career and is totally satisfied. You wish you could have scored more runs and won more trophies.
“But I have played with, and against, some of the best players in the world and travelled to some fascinating places.
‘The one thing I will perhaps miss the most is the chance to travel to some new places.”
Now Maddy faces the challenge which comes, sooner or later, to every professional sportsman or woman. Playing days over, what next?
He has studied fitness and conditioning to give himself that option but is intrigued by the possibilities of coaching, in or out of the county game.
“I would love to stay within the professional game as a coach at whatever level,” he said.
“Strength and conditioning has always been an interest of mine too but I feel that all that I have achieved and experienced over the last 23 years gives me plenty to pass on in terms of coaching.
“I feel I could be of value to a county, but if nothing comes up, I’d be very happy to look at the private school route. We’ll see what happens.”
He will leave Warwickshire, meanwhile, with only the warmest affection from supporters who have appreciated his ability, courtesy and commitment.
“Darren is one of the most widely respected players in the county game,” said Bears director of cricket Dougie Brown. “He is a great role model for the younger players in the squad and is a very popular guy around the dressing room and with club members and supporters.
“He will play an important role for the team in our T20 campaign and we all wish him well in the next stage of his career.”
* Warwickshire cricket legend Dennis Amiss and Birmingham Post cricket reporter Brian Halford will sign copies of the latter’s new book ”The Real Jeeves” during the lunch interval on the first day of the Bears’ championship match against Nottinghamshire next Monday.
The hardback book, priced £16.99, tells the story of former Warwickshire all-rounder Percy Jeeves, who appeared destined for greatness on the cricket field only to be killed on the Somme during the First World War.
His surname was immortalised by writer PG Wodehouse, who saw Jeeves play in 1913 and was so impressed by the cricketer’s conduct and style that he stored the name and used it two years later when he devised his famous manservant character.
Amiss and Halford will be in the Edgbaston shop between 1pm and 1.40pm.