Willey is among the few England players who have enhanced their reputation over the last four weeks in India, taking five wickets at 27.20 and hitting 42 runs from the lower order in his three appearances since he came into the side for their heavy defeat to South Africa in Mumbai.
But he was “not best pleased”, in the words of Rob Key, to be the only member of their World Cup squad who did not feature in the list of 26 central contracts announced in Bangalore last week. Even with a T20 World Cup on the horizon next June, he has decided to quit international cricket for good.
“I never wanted this day to come,” Willey wrote in a post on his Instagram page. “From a young boy, I’ve only ever dreamed of playing cricket for England. So, with careful thought and consideration, it is with great regret that I feel the time has come for me to retire from all forms of international cricket at the end of the World Cup.
“I have worn the shirt with immense pride and given my absolute everything to the badge on my chest. I’ve been very lucky to be a part of such an incredible white ball team with some of the best players in the world. I’ve made some special memories and great friends along the way and been through some very difficult times.
“To my wife, two children, mum and dad, I wouldn’t have been able to follow my dreams without your sacrifice and unwavering support throughout. Thank you for sharing the special memories and picking up the pieces when I’ve fallen apart – I’m eternally grateful.”
Willey said that he will continue to give “my everything and more” in England’s final three group games against Australia, Netherlands and Pakistan. “I feel I still have a lot more to give on and off the field while I am still playing my best cricket, and my decision has nothing to do with our performance during the World Cup,” he said.
Willey will continue to play short-form cricket at home and around the world. He captained Northamptonshire in the T20 Blast last year and represented Welsh Fire in the Hundred, and is due to play for Abu Dhabi Knight Riders in the ILT20 in January. He may also be retained by Royal Challengers Bangalore ahead of next year’s IPL.
Willey made his England debut in a no-result against Ireland in Malahide in May 2015, shortly after their group-stage elimination World Cup, and became a regular member of their white-ball squads as part of their rebuild under Eoin Morgan, Trevor Bayliss and Andrew Strauss.
He was part of the side that finished second at the 2016 World T20, taking 3 for 20 in England’s last-gasp defeat to West Indies in the final, and was named in their provisional squad for the 2019 World Cup, but was brutally dropped at the last minute to accommodate Jofra Archer’s selection.
He was left out at the start of the tournament itself, but has impressed since coming into the side, most recently dismissing Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Suryakumar Yadav while taking 3 for 45 in Sunday’s defeat against India. “I’m sure everybody who knows me does not doubt that, whatever my involvement in the remainder of this campaign, I will give my everything and more,” he said. “That’s the only way I know.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98