So I was thinking on the train home tonight, about all the things I've read about Flintoff on here lately, and further back as well. He's copped a fair bit on here since the end of the last Ashes, some fair enough, some not. Fair enough that his batting has gone into a fairly long decline - no century in any form of cricket since August 2005. Not fair enough that he's an awful batsman, for example. Well anyway, two things seem to be said quite a lot, they stand out to me:
- He's overrated
- He is a bit of a one-series wonder
So, overrated. I find this interesting. I've probably overrated him in the past, everyone knows that to me Fred walks on water. But let's be honest, where do I do most of my cricket talk? Got a couple of mates in work that I discuss it with, aside from that, CricketWeb. Wouldn't have thought I would be the only member of this forum who is in this boat. And amongst CW (and my mates actually), common consensus seems to me that he is an awesome bowler, but should maybe bat at 7 for England now that we have a half-decent top six. Obviously some folk thing he should bat 8, it's even been suggested Broad should bat above him, some people still want him at 6, overwhelming opinion seems to be that if he plays he bats seven. But also, that if he plays, he bowls, and that we are so much stronger for it (if he stays fit). Without Flintoff, we potentially play with a bowling line-up of Sidebottom-Broad-Anderson-Panesar (maybe replace Hoggard for Anderson). It's decent, but not awesome. Replace Anderson with Flintoff and I am like, foaming at the mouth. I would actually get rid of Panesar, at least early in the summer, and play Hoggard, but that won't happen, nonetheless the sheer quality of Flintoff makes our bowling unit look so much better. When he is fit, I would take him over pretty much any fast bowler still playing, call me one-eyed, I don't care because I would.
Anyhow, I digress. Overrated? To me, all the crap I read about how he's not fit to lace Mohammad Rafique's boots to me suggests people have decided to jump on him because he has not played a Test in two years. The fact that he hasn't played a Test in so long somehow means he is bad at them? Well it's bollocks, he is a cracking Test Cricketer, he is one of the best in the world when fully fit and if he plays the summer this year then everyone will be picking them in their bimonthly world XI threads again.
And also, when he last played a Test I seem to remember a thread asking how good he actually was. Common view, from memory, was that he was a bowling all-rounder at tests who shouldn't have been batting in the top six but that in ODIs he was a world-class all-rounder. These days everyone seems to dismiss his ODI batting as well, even though he's only played a handful in the last year or so.
And after the WC he was cited as a huge flop. Sure, he did flop with the bat, but his bowling was good, average of 21. Almost seems unfair to call him a flop, I do appreciate that his batting at the WC wasn't good enough, yet he was damned for being an all-rounder, we shouldn't have been relying on our best bowler to score runs.
So no, I don't think he's overrated, because though he seriously needs to address his batting form, I've still seen him bat fantastically, and his bowling? Show me a better fast bowler that's still playing. You might be able to show me a few you think are better, but how many? Not many, because if you look up "world-class fast bowler" in the dictionary, there is a picture of our Fred rather than any words defining the term.
Now to the other one, and this is my major gripe. When people say he is a one-series wonder. Let's look at this.
In the 2005 Ashes, Flintoff averaged 40 with the bat and 27 with the ball, rightly applauded as a tremendous effort, seeing as it was against the best side in the world and all. His overall averages are both 32, so yes, that series was a performance someway above his overall career record. Except we all know two things about Flintoff:
- He is a better player than is suggested by his averages, even his detractors know this
- He genuinely was picked too early
I am not one who prunes stats that often or even gets involved in stat-based debates, I find them fascinating but I don't really like to contribute. But I do believe that if we take a look at a few years of Flintoff's career rather than the whole lot, if gives us a true measure of how good a cricketer he genuinely is.
I didn't know where exactly the best starting point was, so I just went with 1/1/03, rather than using any scientific method, picking any particular point etc. In this period he averages 38.56 with the bat and 28.97 with the ball. This, to me, shows that the Ashes was no fluke, it was no statistical anomale, it was slightly above his form voer the past and following years, ie the performance of a true all-rounder.
In this period, only against two sides does Flintoff average figures that I consider to be poor with the bat, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. And only against Pakistan would I say his bowling averages are disappointing, at 35. And against Pakistan, I remember his bowling in that series, 35 didn't do it justice, he bowled bloody well.
I could go on all day, I really could, I'm sure nobody is even reading now anyway, but if you are, well I hope you've seen my point. I don't expect many to agree with it, but to me, Flintoff is a great cricketer, I am desperate to see him play a few more years as he will surely delight us once again like no other can. Put simply, I think he is the best English cricketer of his generation, the Botham comparisons never did do him any favours, but he is the greatest personality and all-rounder we have had in our game since him. I hate the way everyone is so quick to jump on him these days, it is such an English thing to, let us bow down to him when he wins us the Ashes, and jump on him when he has battles with injury that collide with a severe loss of form with the blade.
Andrew Flintoff is not overrated, the way some round here go on about him, he's underrated. Andrew Flintoff did not just have one great series, he had a few great years. I'm pretty sure he'll be playing Test Cricket again next Thursday - welcome back Fred, you have been missed.