Au Revior Andrew Flintoff
He came in as a lanky young middle-order batsman into the English cricket side in 1998. His initial performances fetched him no more credit than being regarded as one of those English county cricketers who get to represent the international side for a few matches.During a subcontinent tour came the moments that changed his destiny! With injuries to major frontline seamers, England had no other option but to choose whoever could bowl medium fast from among those available in the squad and that’s how the red cherry got to the hands of Flintoff. Even he might have got surprised by the kind of transformation he went into from being a gangly part-time bowler to a gigantic prime bowler who could bat too.
Just like the dynamicity in his personality, his match performances were great in spurts. He was a match-winner – A rarity in an English squad since the days of the Allan Lambs & the Graham Gooches. With over 225 test scalps, 170 odi scalps and over 3000 runs in both forms of the game at a decent average Flintoff was undoubtedly the best all-rounder England could have dreamt to have. Infact, he is a genuine contender for the category - ‘the best international all-rounder of the first decade of this century’. Another tremendous aspect of Andy was the aura he possessed when he did his best. As Strauss says, Flintoff was a High-impact player whose performances had the ablility to inspire others in the team. That fits him in the lot that people like Steve Waugh, Ganguly, Akhtar (of the old), Cairns (to quote some) are part of. Who could ever forget the Ashes series of 2005 which England won after 18 years?!
Flintoff had his dream match in 2005 with a literal one man show with both the bat and the ball, with scores of 68,73 and reverse-swing hauls of 3/52 & 4/79 in the Edgbaston test (regarded as one of the best tests ever) to help England get a historic 2-run nail biting triumph over the Aussies. The over he bowls before getting rid of Ponting is one I can watch over and over again. He nearly repeated that effort with a wonderful showing in the 2009 Ashes as well when he helped them win a very important match despite having an inner struggle with his operated knee.
He has had his share of controversies but with dynamic and powerful personalities these are by-products you can happily take, for, they have loads of pluses which make these sundries look miniscule. It is such a shame and irony that a person like Flintoff who could not be intimidated by an opposition player has succumbed to his own injuries. But he can rest assured that he is one of the pioneers of the volte-face that English cricket has taken in the past decade. Looking at the form they are in with players like Broad, Swann, Morgan, Strauss & KP leading the charge, it doesn’t seem they are going to come down any time soon.
Freddie can now happily retire in his living room,wish luck to his mates and probably watch England retain the Ashes at Australia this year – The first time they will do (There is an ‘IF’ here!) without their beloved Freddie!