In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports News, Andrew Flintoff admitted his decision to retire from cricket on medical advice has yet to fully sink in.
The all-rounder, who has not played since the final Ashes Test last summer and has seen a number of return dates come and go in his fight to overcome a chronic knee problem, was told his body would not be able to cope with his planned comeback.
Flintoff had initially planned to play for Lancashire this summer and was reportedly in negotiations to play domestic Twenty20 cricket in Australia and New Zealand, but he has now accepted his professional career is over.
"I had a scan at the beginning of the week which confirmed what I suspected - that the knee wasn't quite right and I had a meeting in Glasgow yesterday with the surgeon," said Flintoff.
"He just confirmed that the operation I had 12 months ago has been fine but not good enough to start playing cricket again.
"Although I was hopeful of playing a few weeks ago for Lancashire second team, in my own mind I wasn't quite right.
"I'm not quite sure it's sunk in. I think it's going to take a while. The decision's been made for me. In some ways it's good it is the end of the season so I can almost pretend I'm going to start playing next year.
"It's going to be difficult, it's something I've done professionally for nearly 17 years. Since I was a kid all I've wanted was to play cricket."
Not to be
Flintoff added: "I really thought I'd have another two or three years playing at Lancashire especially. But it's just not to be.
"There was always that hope I was going to get back so there was always something to work for.
"Whether it was the three years of rehab that I've been doing over the past five, the carrot at the end of it was that I'd get back in the dressing room, get back out on the cricket field and have the chance to represent firstly Lancashire and then England.
"That's gone now. I'm no longer a cricketer. It's something I'm going to have to deal with.
"I'm going to go back to Dubai and spend time with my family, re-assess and look at my options and see where it takes me."
He admitted, though, there was a certain sense of relief that a decision had been made one way or the other.
"I suppose in some ways going and seeing the surgeon I wanted a decision either way," he added.
"I wanted him to say 'you're going to be fine, do your rehab, I'll get you playing again in January'. That would have been the ideal scenario. Or say 'your knee's no good, do something else'.
"I think it would have been hard if it had been a 50-50 decision or 60-40 in my favour. Because at this point in my life I can't wait around and the sides that I play for can't wait around for ever.
"I've got to focus my energy into something else and build a new career which at 32, nearly 33, could be the longest career I have."
Flintoff recalled some of the highlights of his career.
"It's hard to pick one," he said. "I still remember getting my first cap at Lancashire when I was nine and then getting my county cap, and then making my debut for England.
"Probably the best I played was under Michael Vaughan when he took over (as England captain).
"We had a three-year patch where we beat everyone in the world including Australia.
"I was probably a major part of the team at that stage."
Flintoff's own captaincy experience offered what he described as "mixed" memories, with a drawn series in India followed by a crushing Ashes defeat in Australia.
"I had a chance to do that, not many people can do that," he said. "India was fantastic and obviously Australia wasn't.
"But it's something I can tell my grandkids, and I'm not concerned about it to be honest."
And he has no regrets as he leaves his playing career behind, stressing: "No, I feel very fortunate.
"To have had the chance to represent both my club and country, and also some of the times just to get on the cricket field it's been a real effort from an injury point of view and a physical point of view.
"I know people have talked about the amount of Test matches and the amount of cricket I've missed.
"But to get out on the field has been a real effort. So I'm not going to sit around and feel sorry for myself. I've had the chance to play 70-odd tests for England."
He continued: "At times it's been hard (but) I've been involved in two Ashes wins and three domestic trophies with Lancashire.
"If someone had said that when I started I'd be very happy. I can sit here and honestly say I'm proud of my cricket career.
"Hopefully I'll be involved with Lancashire till the day I die. I know the club have got big plans in the next few years to take the club forward from a development side and the team point of view. If I can play any part in that I'd love to."