LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: Mark Lathwell.
MARK LATHWELL has always known that when the reasons to play run out, it is time to walk away.
He knew it when he left the first-class game in 2001.
And he knew it last week when he retired from cricket altogether.
Braunton's agonising, last-ball defeat to North Devon, he felt, had put the final nail in the coffin of their premier division survival hopes.
With the hope gone, there was just no reason to continue.
Lathwell told the Journal: "For the last couple of years, I have needed to find reasons to play.
"I felt I had played my quota of cricket matches and I was ready to stop.
"The fact we were trying to push into the premier division and stay up gave me a reason to carry on.
"But it doesn't look like they are ready for it and they might not be for a long time to come."
When he left Somerset in 2001, after 156 first-class matches and 8,727 runs, Lathwell said: "I could not see a way forward of playing regular first-team cricket, which I found to be an increasing strain to play in anyway."
Then, as now, his enthusiasm for the game had waned.
"I've been slowly going into decline year on year and it's not much fun when you can't do what you used to do," he said this week.
"And there are other things I can think of doing rather than playing cricket.
"I have had some good times and some bad times playing cricket and I'm happy to draw a line under that time of my life.
"It was an ambition of mine to be a cricketer since I was 5. I worked hard to do it and I did it.
"Now it's time to spend more time with my family.
"A Saturday at home in the summer is a very rare thing and when it has happened, I have always found it enjoyable.
"There's no danger of me playing again. I have played thousands of days of cricket — more than enough."
Lathwell was born in Buckinghamshire but brought up in Braunton.
He made his debut for Somerset in 1991, aged 20, but was unfortunate not to have emerged ten years later.
His wristy strokeplay and attacking instincts were more typical of present-day opening batsmen.
And he would surely have been given further opportunities in the more welcoming England set-up than he was in 1993, when he was cruelly jettisoned after scores of 20, 33, nought and 25 against a rampant Australian side.
Lathwell was never quite the same player again for Somerset, although the following seasons were punctuated by some splendid innings, not least a first-class best of 206 against Surrey in 1994.
A knee injury wiped out the entire 1999 season and he was unable to hold down a first-team place again.
In 2001 he returned to North Devon and his runs, wickets and captaincy proved valuable for Braunton, while he also coached the club's young players.
He was the leading run scorer in the A division in 2003 and the premier division in 2005.
Last season, in eight Devon League matches, Lathwell averaged 92.75 as Braunton won promotion.
He was a prized wicket for opposition bowlers. Jon Baglow, the current Braunton captain, said: "Everyone targets him and it's a massive boost for teams when they get him out."
That is probably not much fun sometimes. And when the fun goes, so does the reason to play.
It is a message Lathwell will no doubt pass on to his son, Sam, who has been scoring runs for Devon Under-12s this summer. Will he follow his father into the Braunton team?
"Who knows and who cares? He just enjoys playing," said Lathwell.
"I hope he keeps enjoying playing and wanting to improve — that's all you can ask for."