YORKSHIRE’S director of professional cricket Martyn Moxon last night described retiring Joe Sayers as “the rock” of his batting line-up.
The left-handed batsman, who only turned 30 in November, yesterday quit the first-class game after scoring almost 5,000 runs for the county.
Leeds-born Sayers played his entire county career with Yorkshire, amassing nine centuries since debuting in 2004, captaining the White Rose and also representing England Lions.
However, he has struggled at times since being diagnosed with Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome in 2010 and, though impressively returning to action from the debilitating condition a year later, spent much of last season in Yorkshire’s second XI after a loss of form.
“Obviously, things haven’t quite panned out as he or we would have liked for the last couple of years since his illness,” Moxon told the Yorkshire Post.
“He’s not quite reached the heights of prior to that.
“It’s a shame he’s had to make this decision, but I think, in the circumstances, it’s the right thing for him and the club.”
When asked about the player’s qualities, Moxon said: “Joe was someone who was the rock of the batting line-up at his best, someone you could rely on to blunt the new ball and go on and score big hundreds.
“But he also had the ability to take on the opposition in one-day cricket too; he could free his hands and was very flexible in where he could bat.
“As a member of the dressing room, he was very highly regarded. He captained the side as well at times and was vice-captain too.
“He brought a lot of sense, knowledge and calmness within the group.
“He’s been a good servant to Yorkshire CCC.”
The club is unlikely to look to replace the player, who averaged 32.58 from his 97 first-class matches with them and struck a career-best 187 against Kent at Tunbridge Wells in 2007.
“We’ve been talking to him for quite a while so it’s not a shock to us,” added Moxon, about yesterday’s announcement.
“We’re not planning to bring anyone else in at this stage. We’ll go with what we’ve got.
“I think he’ll continue to play cricket as much as he can whether that be league cricket or whatever.
“He’s got a different career path planned and how much cricket he plays will depend on how much free-time he will have. But he’ll look to carry on.”
Sayers, who played club cricket with Cleckheaton, endured a horrific time with the chronic fatigue illness which he revealed was so acute that it often left him needing to go to bed at 3pm.
Of course, it left big question marks over his ability ever to continue as a professional cricketer – no other player had encountered such a condition so there was no precedent – and he admitted fearing for his career.
He did return but never truly recaptured the form that, in his early cricket, had some people suggesting he could be a future England captain. Sayers’s leadership qualities were clear from those early days and, though he never did appear at Test level or lead his country, he did captain Yorkshire for the first time in 2011.
With club captain Andrew Gale – who Tweeted yesterday “18 years batting together and not one run out!! #topman” – injured and Jacques Rudolph back home on a South African training camp, he took charge in the County Championship against Warwickshire.
Renowned for his ability to play long innings while perhaps not being a quick run-maker, Sayers proved a patient and diligent batsmen, becoming one of only seven Yorkshire cricketers to have carried his bat through a completed innings more than once.
He graduated from Oxford University with a degree in Physics, having captained their side in 2003, and gave up a promising junior career as a goalkeeper at Bradford City to pursue a life as a professional cricketer.
His most prolific season was 2009 when he amassed 1,150 first-class runs for Yorkshire, form which alerted the international selectors who drafted him in as a replacement for Jonathan Trott in the England Lions side.
Sayers did play in a friendly against Australia and subsequently toured South Africa on an England Performance Programme camp, but his illness problems started when he suffered gastroenteritis in Pretoria.
He played 31 List A matches, making his limited overs debut in September 2003 against Gloucestershire at Headingley, top scoring later with 62 and averaging 21.21.
His final first-class match was the drawn game with Surrey at Headingley last June when he contributed five and 24 with the bat though his last professional game was against Worcestershire second XI in August.
In a brief statement, Sayers said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a professional cricketer with Yorkshire. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody associated with the club, in particular the supporters, and I wish the lads all the best for the 2014 season.”
Yorkshire chairman Colin Graves added: “Joe is a great guy and I would like to thank him for his contribution over the last few years and wish him well in the future.”