Freddie Flintoff joins Radio 5 Live

I heard Freddie Flintoff on Radio 5 Live earlier today announcing that he is going to be co-presenting a radio show once a week this summer. It’s going to be called ‘Freddie’s World of Sport’ and will run from May to August, apparently covering cricket, golf and tennis.

It sounds a bit like a slightly more adventurous version of the weekly cricket shows that 5 Live have run in the past using Phil Tufnell and Darren Gough.

The shows using Tufnell and Gough ran just after both had appeared on their respective ‘celeb reality TV shows’ and look timed to fully exploit their new found fame. I worked late a lot back in those days and a result listened to them and have to say that they were pretty crap.

I can only hope that this is better, but I won’t be holding my breath.

Flintoff seems adamant that he not going to go down the conventional route of covering cricket in the way the likes of Mike Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan have.

I know he has to earn a living, but it looks to me that unfortunately Flintoff seems more interested in breaking into the vain ‘celebrity world instead.’

Speaking of the likes of Atherton, Hussain and Vaughan. I noticed that Graeme Swann had a message for some of the media today after England’s defeat to Ireland.

I seem to remember we have been down this road before when the current crop of players get peed off with recent generations for criticising them for doing what they did just as badly themselves in their own days gone by.

Unfortunately it only seems to happen when the team is struggling.

"Inspirational" Flintoff

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.

Is Andrew Flintoff planning Ashes return?

When I briefly heard the news that Andrew Flintoff had to have another operation on his injured knee I thought to myself that he might have already played his last game in any form of cricket, that the knee was turning out to be worse than expected.

Since then I have discovered that Flintoff is so pleased with the outcome of his latest operation that when he returns he plans to play in all forms of cricket for Lancashire, with the most notable thing being his plans to play in four day matches, which he originally said he wouldn’t be playing in.

This leaves me to wonder has Andrew Flintoff got desires on playing in one more big Test series for England?

Why else would he want to play four day cricket for Lancs? In doing so he could prove his fitness to the management and to any doubters in the England camp.

Further to this I also believe he must have a feeling that he has unfinished business ‘Down Under’ after the disasterous 5-0 defeat he suffered as captain, a time he described as the lowest point of his career.

A competitor like Flintoff wouldn’t want his last memories of Australia to be of such a low point.

During his time out he may well have seen how Australia performed against West Indies and Pakistan, and seen how they looked beatable at times.

He also might have realised how much he missed the England set up when watching the Test series against South Africa, noticing that England look to be improving as a side under Strauss and Flower, seeing a new found backbone that wasn’t there before.

Taking all this into account and his ‘you live for the day attitude’, Flintoff might well be thinking England can keep the Ashes when they go there later in the year, maybe he just might be considering one last revenge mission against the Australians before he finally brings the curtain down on his international career.

If it does happen, remember where you read it first!

Cool heads needed as Flintoff rejects ECB contract

The decision by Andrew Flintoff to reject the ‘increment contract’ offer made by the ECB to him has created an unique situation for the ECB and Andy Flower.

Looking in from the outside the situation looks to be a delicate one. On one hand you have got a verbal commitment from Flintoff stating his desire to continue playing ODI and T20 cricket for England, even a pledge to still be playing come the 2015 World Cup.

Then you have those masters of handling delicate situations, the ECB. Who knows what grenades Giles Clarke and his friends will throw in over the next few says. They might do well to keep quiet and wait until the dust settles and have a meeting to spell out their expectations of Flintoff and to try to thrash out a way forward for all.

Andrew Strauss it would appear has left the door open for him, he knows only too well how bad England’s One Day team is and the need to retain the services of Flintoff. As a friend as well it is unlikely that Strauss would want him out unless the situation became untenable for them both.

Andy Flower is the interesting character and could be key in all this for me. He has given the impression that he wants full control over his players and has already stated that his players have only a three week window to play in the 45 day IPL next season – quite how well he might take to a player who participates in the whole tournament could be interesting.

It would be expected that once Flintoff puts a lucrative Twenty20 or other deal ahead of playing for England that it would spell the end of his international career – and rightly so. Andy Flower, who strikes me as an organiser and a meticulous forward planner might not want such a player, who in his opinion might be continually only one game away from his last international appearance as part of his plans for the future.

Given that his current and future sponsorship deals do and probably will depend on his playing for England it could be expected that Flintoff won’t jump ship any time soon, if this is good enough for Andy Flower remains to be seen.

One thing is for certain, England clearly need Flintoff in the ODI and T20 set ups at the moment. It looks like the best thing that could happen is that all parties sit down together and sort things out, all this drip feed of information to the media only seems to create uncertainty and the potential for a misunderstanding to occur.

Flintoff has had an uneasy relationship with the ECB over recent years regarding – mainly – disciplinary reasons, the last thing England now needs is a major falling out with him over a stupid misunderstanding caused by creative journalism.

Graham Onions impressive season rewarded

Graham Onions has been called into the England One Day International squad to replace Andrew Flintoff for both the remainder of the current seven match series against Australia and the Champions Trophy in South Africa that starts in two weeks time.

It is just reward for Onions who has had an impressive season for both Durham and England, he also had a positive impact on the normally hard to please Aussies during the recent Ashes series. Although Onions has performed better in 1st Class cricket rather than the One Day format it is recognition that he is now regarded as an international class bowler who can add quality to the England attack.

He was unlucky to be left out of The Oval side for the 5th Test, a victim of the returning Andrew Flintoff and the selectors desire to stick with the explosive but wayward bowling of Steve Harmison in the hope he still had a match winning performance in him.

It is my view that – despite the negative press he received early during the Ashes series – Onions brings a different element to England’s pace attack. His bowling action seems economical and therefore hopefully he will be able to steer clear of the sort of wear and tear injuries that regularly blight England bowlers.

If he is given the time – regularly afforded to failing batsmen – he could develop into the good line and length bowler that England need, the sort of bowler who will tie up an end and run in all day giving his captain the chance to rotate his strike bowling and swing options from the other end.

Also to try and make scoring difficult giving his captain an element of control – England’s attack seems to have too many bowlers at the moment who can go all round the park at times, when they are not taking wickets they can be a liability.

It is that line and length that if mastered is a major asset for an international bowler, the ability to have a batsman not knowing whether to come forward or stay back and also not knowing whether to play it or leave it – to create uncertainty in the batsman’s mind. Onions appears to try to put the ball in that area, and with his wicket to wicket action he continually asks questions of the batsmen.

He is not the finished article by a long way, and he is also still finding his feet as a test cricketer. Given time though hopefully he will develop into the top class bowler that England badly need now that Flintoff has gone.

Flintoff ruled out of 4th test

As expected Andrew Flintoff has been ruled out of Friday’s 4th test at Headingley. Flintoff bowled a session in the nets yesterday morning wearing a knee brace and looked visably slower as he seemed unable to generate any pace.

It was the 1st time he had bowled since he looked well off the pace on Monday at Edgbaston. Afterwards captain Andrew Strauss would only admit that he hadn’t bowled 100% claiming bowlers sometimes don’t bowl flat out the day before a test.

Considering Flintoff needed to use the session to show that he was fit, Strauss’ comments needed to be taken with a large pinch of salt. He admitted that it depended on how Flintoff felt when he woke on Friday morning, so too not of bowled flat out the day before shows the writing was on the wall already.

How England decide the make up of the team to replace Flintoff could go a long way to telling us the England managements mindset. If they pick Jonathon Trott it could suggest a negative tactic that could give the Aussie a mental boost.

This now means that England have lost both of their big name players with Kevin Pietersen already ruled out for the remaining last two tests.