Veteran all-round cricketer Shane Watson has announced his retirement from Big Bash League, calling time on his cricket career in Australia. The 37-year-old has taken the decision to spend more time with his family during summers. Watson captained the Sydney Thunder franchise even after his retirement from the international format of the game.

“Shane Watson was one of the most exciting short-form players ever to grace a cricket field,” Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts said on Friday (April 26). “Talented, skillful and powerful, Shane was a devastating batsman at his best. It was only a few months ago he scored a century from just 62 balls for the Thunder against the Brisbane Heat at the Gabba.

“In a career which spanned almost two decades Shane made a major contribution to Australian cricket firstly at international level and then in domestic cricket as a significant contributor to the Big Bash. His greatest quality was persistence, overcoming a number of sometimes serious injuries and curtailing his pace. He became a probing swing and seam bowler.

“Despite these injuries Shane played a remarkable amount of cricket, representing Australia in 307 matches across all formats and playing more than 700 matches of international and domestic cricket in total, scoring more than 25,000 runs and claiming over 600 wickets. He is also the only Sydney Thunder batsman to score more than a 1000 runs. He is Australia’s most successful Test and One-Day batting all-rounder after Steve Waugh. No other Australians combined as many runs and wickets in either format,” he added.

Watson played for Sydney Thunder for four years, captaining the side for the past three seasons.

“I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart who has been involved with the Sydney Thunder over the last four seasons,” said Watson in a statement issued at the club’s website.

“I have so many amazing memories that I will savour forever with the one standout being our win in 2016. I want to especially thank Nick Cummins, Paddy Upton, Lee Germon and Shane Bond who made my experience with the club so enjoyable,” he added.

Watson finishes his career as Sydney Thunder’s all-time leading run-scorer with 1,014 runs from 42 games. Cementing himself as one of Sydney Thunder’s most popular players, the all-rounder also took 19 wickets for the club and helped Thunder win their first-ever BBL Championship in 2016.

Sydney Thunder head coach Shane Bond paid tribute to Watson on a career that included 307 appearances across all formats for Australia.

“I played against him a little bit and he was an outstanding player, so I was really looking forward to working with him,” said Bond.

“He was great to work with, he’s the ultimate professional. He cared about the team and the players and was hugely respected in the dressing room. We’re really going to miss what he brings to the team and he will be a big loss,” he added.

Watson will be available for select overseas tournaments, including the Indian Premier League (IPL).