Blackwell takes comfort from fine finish
Ian Blackwell is understandably disappointed to have been forced into retirement from a sport "he loves very dearly", yet can reflect on a fitting ending to his distinguished career.
The 34-year-old, one of the finest all-rounders in the recent history of the county game, announced last week that his playing days had come to an end due to chronic shoulder injuries.
Yet he bowed out on a high having unexpectedly played a part in Warwickshire's LV= County Championship triumph last season following a loan move from Durham towards the end of the campaign.
That switch also ensured what proved his ultimate appearance came at Lord's in the Clydesdale Bank 40 final.
Warwickshire suffered defeat that day, missing out on a double as Hampshire completed their sweep of domestic limited-overs titles in 2012, yet that has not tainted the memory for Blackwell.
"It (having to retire) is one of those things, but I can obviously look back and say my last game was at Lord's. Any trip there is a special day, whether you win or lose," he told ecb.co.uk. "And I was part of a championship-winning team with Warwickshire for the last month of the season.
"I don't think any cricketer wants to end their career when it is not on their terms and I am no different to anyone else, so there is obviously a lot of disappointment there.
"But, on the same token, I think my body was telling me the time was right. It's one of those things; I've had a good run at it having played for 16 to 17 years.
"That is a long time in a sport that I have loved very dearly and obviously had some very good times in."
When asked about the nature of his career-ending problem, Blackwell added: "It's quite well-documented that I've had three operations now on my left shoulder, in 2006, 2009 and then in November just gone. The findings from the third operation were pretty catastrophic.
"I have a rotator cuff tear, there was some supraspinatus damage, major cartilage damage and early signs of arthritis. The surgeon thought he could repair it, but probably not to the level of playing professional cricket again.
"I obviously tried to be sensible about it, thinking about life after cricket and looking after my children; I wanted some sort of quality of life after cricket."
Last year's triumph with Warwickshire earned Blackwell a second County Championship winners medal after he played an integral role in Durham's successful title defence in 2009.
Having previously represented Derbyshire and Somerset, he said: "I have been fortunate in the fact I was able to choose which sides to play for because I was a left-arm spinning all-rounder which were like golddust; every county wanted one.
"I look back with some fond memories and I am very proud at what I have achieved."
Unlike many sportsmen who retire, Blackwell is fortunate to have already planned for life beyond playing. He is set to stand as an umpire in second XI games this year after starting out in league fixtures.
"That (staying in cricket) was one of my main things; I am not really qualified to do anything else, other than work in Sainsbury's maybe," he joked.
"I wanted to stay in cricket and thought umpiring would be something that would appeal; it keeps you at the forefront, you get the best view in the house and and hopefully get to see some good innings and spells by bowlers."