Willey announced before England’s defeat to Australia in Ahmedabad last week that he would be leaving international cricket after this tournament at the age of 33. In September they told him that they had not offered him a central contract for 2023-24, then he found out that he was the only member of the World Cup squad without an offer.
He was incensed and soon decided he was no longer interested in feeling like a “third wheel” as a fringe player. He said the constant uncertainty about his schedule had taken its toll on him, his wife and his two children, so he chose to “take control.”
Willey began the World Cup directing drinks for England, but replaced Sam Curran in their fourth match, a 229-run loss to South Africa in Mumbai, and has played every match since. He finished the tournament with 11 wickets at 23.54, second only to Adil Rashid in the England team, and took 3 for 56 in his 10 overs.
“It was mixed emotions,” Willey said. “My time is up… but I deeply regret it. Anyone who has looked has probably seen the way I have conducted my affairs and [seen that I am] Probably playing the best cricket of my career. I’m 33 years old and fitter than ever.
“One of the reasons they didn’t offer me a contract was because after the World Cup they went in a different direction. I don’t know why.” [they are]. “It’s been a period for some time now… not knowing where I stand with England and it’s just taken its toll on me and it becomes very exhausting.”
Willey believes he could have played a valuable role for England in next June’s T20 World Cup if he had been offered a contract. “[If there is] injury or two, they are going to turn to someone with very little or no World Cup experience,” he said.
“Never say never, but right now I have a lot of confidence [in] my decision that today was my last cricket match for England. Do I want to go to the Caribbean and have a few drinks, and not know where I stand, and feel like a third wheel again? Which is pretty much what I felt when I turned up at Lord’s, being the only one without a contract. ? “Probably not, so I’m done.”
Willey said he had doubts about whether he should travel to India after learning he was the only member of the team without a central contract: “I wasn’t sure if I was going to come to the World Cup, not even until the last minute.” we would meet at Lord’s, I still wasn’t sure if I would make the trip or not.”
And he added: “From then on, [retirement] It was something I had in mind. It’s not just that they haven’t offered me a contract; “That’s how I feel valued as an England player, when I look at the list of other guys who have contracts… I came to the decision that it was the right time to call it a day.”
“This morning, talking to my wife on the phone, she said, ‘Go ahead, get 100 wickets. It would be a good way to finish,'” he said. “Doing that was a good way for me personally [to sign off]”.
He said he wanted to leave international cricket on his own terms and hoped he had proven Rob Key, who, as CEO, was ultimately responsible for central contract bids, wrong. “Keysy told me, ‘I hope you can prove me wrong.’ Maybe I’ve done that in the last few games,” Willey said.
“The timing [of his retirement announcement], people may have seen it and disapproved of my moment there. But for me personally, there aren’t many opportunities you can walk away from. [international] cricket on your terms, and I really wanted to enjoy my last three games of cricket [for England] and play without looking over your shoulder, thinking: ‘One bad performance and I’m out of the team.'”
Willey will continue to play domestic and franchise cricket. He captains Northamptonshire in the T20 Blast and has a contract with Abu Dhabi Knight Riders for the ILT20 in January-February. He is also likely to be retained by Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL and Welsh Fire in the Hundred.
Matt Roller is assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98