Thursday, 16 July 2009

Steady Freddie

So, Freddie's retiring at the end of the Ashes series to concentrate on his lucrative business opportunities one-day career , an admission cannily wheedled out of him by Aggers.

Time was, cricketers retired from the shorter forms of the games - always thought of as distractions - to concentrate on their Test careers.

Now it seems the other way around, and I wonder whether Flintoff may be the first in a procession of players to simply give up Test cricket to earn more money in one-day and 20/20. His stated desire to play for England in the 2015 World Cup seems at odds with his inability to play any more Test cricket.

I think there'll be others, but in Freddie's case I'm probably doing him a disservice. His body, we're told, has been telling him things (I'm guessing his kidneys and liver have been among the most vocal) and his fitness record is terrible; he's been available for only half the test played since his debut.

There are probably only so many cortisone injections a body can handle. Factor in the size of Flintoff's body and a bowling action that looks like it was designed to place the maximum amount of stress on various joints and muscles, and then add in England's over-reliance on him as a bowler and you have a recipe for a broken body.

On the face of it, Flintoff's Test career hasn't been much to write home about. In the case of his batting, his average around 31 is about right. His bowling is done a disservice by the statistics, though, even though he should have taken more wickets.

Barring short spells from Simon Jones and the occasional bout from Grievous Bodily Homesick, Flintoff has been England's best bowler since Darren Gough was at his best. He was England's most reliable bowler for years, and his steady, nagging, aggressive line and length is the reason he's been bowled into the ground. In support of this statement, I offer the following:

Fred's off-the-field activities, which have been positively Bacchanalian if North-West cricket gossip is to be believed, are by-the-bye as far as I'm concerned, and would probably have passed without comment in the 80s.

Flintoff's muscle-flexing in the dressing room, again according to locker room gossip in cricket clubs, may have been rather more malign.

It seems certain that Pietersen, for all his faults, received a fairly sturdy Flintoff axe in his back last year - a situation that threatened a total meltdown in English cricket depending on Pietersen's reaction.

England's over-reliance on their talismanic all-rounder may also have become problematic. In the past his insistence on batting at six, and consequential effect on the England line-up, was also difficult to accommodate.

Nevertheless, despite the problems that Freddie has brought with him, he has had spells where he was a scintillating, exceptional cricketer. I'd prefer to remember him for his cricket, rather than his controversies, though his late-night inebriated encounter with a 'Fredalo' must go down as one of the funniest cricket-related incidents of all time.

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