Steve Harmison was asked to sum up his good pal Freddie in one word, “inspirational” he said, and I have to say I agree with him.
The news that Andrew Flintoff has had to completely retire from cricket is no major surprise after his aborted attempt at a comeback a few weeks ago, but it is still disappointing to hear.
In his 79 tests for England he scored 3845 runs at an average of 31.77, and bowling he took 226 wickets at an average of 32.78. Not a record to write home about, but Flintoff’s game was more about impact than statistics.
For me he took a lot of his wickets ‘at the other end’. And at times when England’s bowling was weak, batsmen knew they only had to survive his spells to prosper against the rest of the attack.
In the end Flintoff’s batting slipped way behind the standards of his bowling, and I did think that at times he batted very irresponsibly, I can recall on occasions watching 50 over games when he was caught on the boundary when England needed less than a run a ball to win.
However, no English fans will ever forget his contributions to winning the Ashes in 2005, he was simply unplayable at times. Just ask Adam Gilchrist, who for me, was never the same batsman after what Flintoff reduced him too during that series.
Sadly that was the highpoint for Flintoff, and we were only treated to glimpses of his best after that as injuries started to impact on the rest of his career.
There is a debate that he could have prolonged his career if he had taken better care of himself. I don’t subscribe to that really, most of his injuries were brought on by wear and tear from Flintoff’s bowling action. He was a manufactured bowler and his action looked anything but natural.
His impact was also felt way beyond the cricket boundary. He made cricket fashionable again with the English public, he is one of not many cricketers who could regularly command front and backpage headlines over the last 5 years.
On the field he could be box office, I remember watching him work Jacques Kallis over at Edgbaston in 2008 and he had the crowd whipped up into a frenzy during that spell, no other English bowler could do that at that time.
Off the field he also captured the public’s imagination. Incidents like the state he was in during the bus tour of 2005, and the pedalo incident in the 2007 world cup, seemed to endear him more to the public.
The main Flintoff memory for me was the one of him consoling Brett Lee at the end of the Edgbaston test in 2005, it showed a competitive man who was also a good sport. I know it is a cliche but he did play hard on and off the field, and was probably more an entertainer than a great cricketer.
For the future, I hope he dosen’t now become mixed up in the false celebrity world, but I fear that might be the route he will choose to follow. It might be the only option for him, as a career in cricket dosen’t look feasible.
Overall I believe Flintoff has been good value. In his prime he was one of the best bowlers in the world, and his batting was explosive. He was one of the few cricketers around who could change a game, a real match winner.
Thanks for the entertainment Freddie.