Fletch calls stumps

on Monday, 11 April 2016.

His stats are simply eye-watering.

A mighty 6,400 runs at 40.50 in 172 games for the Bombers, 612 at 32.21 in a one-season stint for the Blues, rounded off by 1,850 (and counting) at 41.11 in 44 games for Melbourne University.

It is safe to say Ben Fletcher will go down as one of Premier Cricket's finest, and most consistent performers, after announcing the Round 17 fixture against St Kilda will be his last.

He'll walk away with a heavy heart, but feels the time is right to step aside.

"As much as I love playing cricket and still feel like I can play the game, I made the decision to focus my time on my family and our businesses," said Fletcher.

"I also feel it is a great time to retire as I haven't been able to put in my usual commitment to the game and the club.

"With this in mind, I have always believed that there needs to be 110 per cent commitment to play good Premier Cricket.

"I had moments last season where I thought it was time. Through great support from my family, babysitters, work colleagues and MUCC, I was able to squeeze out another year.

"I knew fairly early into this season that this would be my last, however, I avoided thinking about it until the last three weeks whilst focusing on each game.

"Was it a difficult decision? It was a very difficult decision as I still feel very good, I can't speak highly enough of MUCC and I wanted to be part of the playing group going forward.

"However, when there was a choice between family or cricket, it was an easy decision."

The Saints, like Uni, will be looking to end their campaign on a high.

Fletcher's side are also hunting precious points to keep them out of the division's bottom two.

"To be honest, whether it is my first or last game, every game is very important to win," continued Fletcher.

"I guess it would be a nice way to finish off. More importantly, I hope there are some significant efforts from our players that may help develop their careers."

Fletcher's long and illustrious Premier career began in 1999-2000 against South Melbourne.

It took him five years to make the grade, so making the first XI was a big achievement to the budding star, he remembers the game well.

"I made 14 not out but cannot recall my first runs," he continued.

"I do recall being so desperate to do the right thing and I pretty much jumped to my knees to stop a well struck ball and it got the better of me by hitting me flush in the worst possible area which gave me grief for two hours! That was

a strong memory from that game, ha!"

Batting anywhere in the top six for Essendon, Fletcher became a prized wicket for opposition bowlers.

His favoured number four spot proved fruitful through the years, in particular the 2008-09 campaign, the season he cracked the 200 barrier against Geelong.

Like Paul Collingwood's double-hundred for England v Australia at Adelaide, Fletcher also finished on the losing team despite making 210 not out!

Hundreds for Shaun Dean and Aaron Finch carried the Cats home with 20 overs to spare on day two.

One game does stick in Fletcher's head - winning the Second XI Premiership in 1998-99 for the Bombers.

His favourite knock was in the early 2000s against a rising Ringwood side on a sticky wicket. His 93 against the Rams batted his side out of a hole.

"Ash Robertson was the best Premier bowler I have ever faced," continued Fletcher.

"The only issue is I never faced him long enough to have a great battle with him! I recall Peter Siddle coming onto the scene strongly in 2006-07 and he was very difficult.

"In recent years Chris Tremain was super impressive."

It's easy to wax lyrical when looking back on Fletcher's magnificent history with the willow.

But now he's content with moving forward, turning the pages on the next chapter in his life. Uni firsts may have struggled for consistent form this season, but the seconds, thirds and fourths are having the time of their lives.

Fletcher is adamant the future is bright at the club.

"We have five or six teenagers in the first two grades and as much talent in the thirds," he said.

"I reckon we just need one or two experienced proven first XI players to nurture the list and learn from.

"The one disappointing part of retirement is I feel we have an exciting three to five years ahead.

"There are a heap of exciting players including Rolfs, Roughsedge, Chopra, Emms, Rogers, Young plus many more."

Fletcher hopes his reintegration back into society on a Saturday during the cricket season will be a smooth one.

It is now time for him to focus solely on family (he has four kids, all under the age of six!) and business after a truly remarkable career at the crease.

You wouldn't bet against him ending his story with yet another century.

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by Melbourne Uni CC