Andrew Flintoff – What we said about himMartyn Corrin |
In light of Andrew Flintoff’s retirement a few days ago, Cricket Web’s Martin Chandler posted the following article:Andrew Flintoff – What they said about him. This comprised the thoughts of his peers and the like. Well now, a few of us here on the Cricket Web team have collaborated to put together our thoughts on England’s finest post-Botham all-rounder.
Your comments today come from four Englishmen, Paul Wood, Marc Robbins, Stuart Appleby and Martyn Corrin, and an Australian, Cameron Burge.
“It’s easy to fall into traps when looking back at a player’s career. Perhaps the easiest is to simply look at the statistics and gauge one’s opinion on raw numbers. Another is to err on the side of how the player performed against the side which you support, and to transmogrify their efforts in that limited forum to their career at large.
When it comes to Andrew Flintoff, I err towards the latter approach, mostly because the former would do him a manifest injustice.
A perusal of his career may lead one to think here was a man who was a serviceable allrounder at international level – one who excelled at neither discipline particularly, but who contributed handily at both. Plainly he was no Sobers with the willow, nor Imran with the ball.
But ask any Australian batsman who played against him from 2005 onwards. No liberties were taken against Flintoff when he was bowling. None. Here was a man who, even on the days when he wasn’t taking wickets, at least quietened one of the more aggressive batting line ups to have played Test cricket. Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, Gilchrist.. especially Gilchrist. All of them respected Flintoff’s abililty with the ball tremendously. Far more than his raw career statistics would appear to justify.
He bowled a “heavy” ball, one that seemed to be on the batsman quicker than expected, and which always seemed to hit higher on the bat than anticipated. That 2005 Ashes series was, despite the heroics of Shane Warne, Flintoff’s stage. And he betstrode it like a colossus.
To concentrate on his bowling though, understates his ability with the bat. Although he was at times leaden-footed and made to look under par by Warne, when the mood took him Flintoff was devastating. He could take a game away from his opponents with an hour’s worth of bludgeoning blows, whilst his run out of Ponting in the 2009 series (where England surprisingly didn’t recourse to subsititue fielders for a change) was a highlight all its own. True it is that Freddie’s returns with the ball in Test cricket did diminish once England stopped the use of malevolent Murray Mints, but he was still a bowler every opponent treated with caution.
As an Australian supporter, Flintoff always struck me as that rarest of breeds – a Pom worthy of being an Aussie. Whilst his knockabout ways got him into strife from time to time with team management, they made him all the more endearing – in much the same way as a neighbour’s Pitbull Terrier seems cute and cuddly before going on a rampage through your backyard. He liked a drink, enjoyed a party but still turned up ready to play when it mattered most. Moreover, he played in the right spirit. Who could ever forget that image from the second Test in 2005, when Brett Lee, disconsolate, was approached by Flintoff who shook his hand and congratulated him on the effort he had put in before the heinous injustice of Billy Bowden’s manifest error denied Australia a well-earned victory.
I saw Flintoff bowl against Australia twice in Sydney, once for the World XI and the other in the 2006-07 Ashes series. What struck me both times was the overt energy in his approach to the game. Here was a massive unit who ran in hard and always gave it everything he had. He had been plagued by injury long before either of those tours, yet there was never a question of his holding anything back for fear of a recurrence. It will remain my abiding memory of him – a man who played cricket as it should be played – without regard for self, and in the right spirit (except for the mints).
Well played, Andrew.”
“In years to come, when people that did not have the absolute pleasure of watching Andrew Flintoff play cricket, will browse over his statistics and may be a touch perplexed about what all the fuss was about.
Don’t get me wrong, 226 Test wickets at 32.78 apiece, is not be sniffed at, it is indeed a fine effort. While an average of 31.77 with the bat is respectable. But Flintoff was so much more than the numbers.
There have been few players in my lifetime that can sense an occasion, appreciate his side need something special, and deliver. Some of his spells of bowling, against the very best batsmen of his era, such as Jacques Kallis, Ricky Ponting, and Sachin Tendulkar were simply scintillating. He would charge in, bang the ball in back of a length, hit the seam consistently, and send the ball whizzing through to the expectant keeper, and passed the hapless bystander called the batsman.
His batting was none too shabby either. Perhaps on reflection it never managed to hit the consistent heights he had hoped. He saw himself as a batsman that bowls, when in truth his career suggests otherwise, such was his excellence with the ball.
When news spread that Flintoff the batsman was making his way to the crease, you would find the nearest viewing point. Which Freddie were we going to see today? The one that pushes out ponderously and nicks one to the slip region before we’ve seen any of his power blows, or the one that entertains with a combination of hooks, pulls and drives. Hitting down the ground was always a strength of his.
Flintoff was an entertainer, a down to earth guy that liked a beer, perhaps too much at times, but despite errors of judgement he made, his popularity was unaffected. The fans could relate to his personality. I will remember Freddie as someone who could raise the crowd from their slumber and whip them into a frenzy with a wholehearted performance, whatever it was he was doing.”
“We came to see Lara, his last tour of England and as luck would have it he won the toss and chose to bat.
We made a pact: England to take wickets from one end, but a couple of hours of Him would be acceptable.
Halfway through the afternoon session, Fred gets bowls Sarwan and in He walks. Joseph makes it through an Anderson over and the game was set.
5th ball, a beauty pitches on leg and keeps on. He’s bowled behind His legs, completely out-thought by the bowler.
For 5 seconds there was silence, then the crowd erupted – we’d come to see genius, just didn’t expect it to be wearing the 3 Lions.
Thanks for the memories Fred.”
“Everyone who knows me knows that Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff is my favourite ever cricketer. When he retired from Tests last summer, I will confess I felt a little emotional (as I admitted at the time here: Freddie). In this country, it must be said that not one person as ever questioned me as to why I adore him. If you like cricket and live in England, you understand.
It is often-talked about, how Flintoff’s statistics don’t measure up to what he brought to the team. How he lifted those around him, how his contributions were often unmeasurable. And how he lifted the crowd. All of these are of course true. I would just like to touch on the last. Yes, he lifted the crowd, and why? Well, it’s simple. I am not the only person who lists Freddie as his favourite cricketer; far from it. He was (and it saddens me to use past tense) a man whose mere presence on the field or at the crease enabled the crowd to enjoy themselves, however badly the game might be going. If you don’t think that a home crowd full of spirit and enthusiasm makes a difference to the rest of the players on the team, then you’ve probably not watched a lot of professional sport.
Let me cite a couple of examples. Geraint Jones hardly had a distinguished career with the blade for England, but he probably never played a more important innings than his 85 at Trent Bridge in the 2005 Ashes. Who was at the other end for the bulk of his innings? The same guy that batted with him for a massive portion of his only Test century. Yeah, you know the answer. And as a bowler? James Anderson’s first innings bowling against Australia at Lord’s in 2009 was absolutely central to England taking the lead in the series. He was very vocal that day about the difference Flintoff being at the other end made to him and how he felt it was key to enabling him to perform as he did.
It is often said by detractors of the English (i.e. Australians) that we settle for mediocrity and revel in glorious defeat. Alas, there is nothing we appreciate more than someone who is prepared to run through a brick wall for the team. The typical image would be a hard-as-nails footballer, probably a centre-back, who eats centre-forwards for breakfast and plays on through multiple concussions. In Freddie, though, we got that much more. We got someone who gave every little bit of energy had to the team cause which just so happened, at his peak, to have monumental results.
From reading comments across the internet, it would appear there are many who don’t understand why we are so fond of Flintoff; I would advise these people that cricket is not just about statistics, and you know what, it is not even just about results. Sport is ultimately entertainment, and Andrew Flintoff entertained us, he entertained us like nobody else. I couldn’t care less that his first innings bowling at Edgbaston in 2008 didn’t end in a five-for, or that his innings against Australia the following year fell short of a century. On both occasions, he had me on the edge of my seat. He always did.”
“Injury ridden, statistically average and often tainted in non cricketing commotion, Andrew Flintoff?s decade at the hub of English cricket will not be remembered for all his frailties but for his ability, to at times, single handedly carry an England side with a belief they can beat the world?s best in spite of previous years of intrepid decline and toothless records.
The Lancashire all-rounder?s retirement from all forms of cricket last week gives wholesale permission to carry out a post-mortem on a career blazoned in incident and altercation, helping to depict the make-up of a peoples champion. Since Flintoff?s England bow at Trent Bridge against South Africa in 1998, it has been difficult not to have become caught up in one man?s fling with cricketing methodology.
Undoubtedly the highlight of Flintoff?s international career came during the 2005 Ashes, where he defied pure blooded Australians and contributed greatly with bat and ball to produce an acclaimed man of the series performance ending countless years of England being the butt of the hereditary jokes, with Flintoff capturing the nation?s heart through one?s attitude and commitment to the cause.
A virtuoso and bruising bowling spell fired in at Australian Captain Ricky Ponting underlined the 32 year-olds skill, accuracy and ability to come to the fore on the biggest stage. This almost, the principal selling point in a cricketing memoir buoyed by going toe to toe with the game?s elite. Indeed, for all our memories of Flintoff during his career, it is hard to deviate away from the memory jerking moments which unfolded that summer, chopping every other little accolade, controversy or acknowledgement away for six.
It would be wrong to chiefly suggest the rest of arguably England?s greatest impact player of all time?s career was redundant in achievement, far from it. His achievement to Captain a young, inexperienced English side overflowing with apprehension in India to a series draw in early 2006 where he remained a mainstay in both all-rounder departments emphasized Flintoff?s calibre to turn up and put on a show against world class opposition.
But now as Flintoff embarks on the next stage of a curious career he will be remembered for the great and the good, the arrogance and self proclaimed personality, which magnetised a will to stand up and be counted for his country in England?s own backyard.
The anomalies, the low lighting points, they don?t need to be remembered and they will not be as the mere mention of the extrovert cricketing icon, that is Flintoff, will be enough to evoke fruitful pub talk, incessant nostalgia searches and throwbacks to a six week summer period in 2005 which turned the face of English cricket eternally. A world beating people?s champion, he?s just one of us really.”
Thanks for taking the time to read our thoughts – feel free to leave a comment and share yours.