From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.32 :: NO.30 :: Jul. 25, 2009
Andrew Flintoff has set his sights on becoming the best one-day player in the world and competing in the 2015 World Cup after he confirmed he would retire from Test cricket at the end of the Ashes.
Flintoff was given three cortisone injections to his right knee after twisting it during the Cardiff Test. A crippling list of injuries, including four ankle operations and recent surgery on his knee, has persuaded Flintoff — who has missed 62 Tests out of 138 since his debut — to focus on one-day cricket instead, although his desire to play until 2015 would take him to the age of 37.
“It’s been on my mind for quite a while,” he said. “My body’s telling me things and I’m starting to listen. I can’t keep playing a game here and there and waiting until I’m fit — for the sake of my own sanity and my family having to live with me, going through two years of rehab in the past four has not been ideal.
“You have your first ankle operation, then your next and your next and it gets harder and harder. But we’ve got a World Cup coming up in 2011 and I’d like to play another World Cup after that as well. There’s a lot of cricket left in me and I want to be the best in the world in that form of the game.”
The timing of Flintoff’s announcement — on the eve of the biggest fixture in England’s calendar — inevitably led to speculation that Lord’s could be his 77th and final Test cap but Flintoff said one last hurrah in the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval “would be a perfect end to my career”. He refused to rule out having more injections on the knee that swelled up after Cardiff, saying: “I’ll do anything to play in the remaining Tests.”
Strauss admitted: “As players we’ve probably had a feeling this was coming sooner rather than later. With the injuries he’s had over the last couple of years, you got the feeling that something had to give and, given that Test match bowling puts so much more pressure on his body, it seems like the logical thing to do. I think we’re all sad he feels it necessary to make that decision at this age but at the same time hopefully he’s doing it to elongate his career in the shorter form of the game. I also think that if anything he’s going to be more motivated for these remaining Test matches — I think he really wants to go out with a bang.”
What happens beyond this summer is unclear. Flintoff is contracted to Lancashire until the end of the 2010 season — although he suggested he would be unlikely to play regular championship cricket — and is scheduled to represent Chennai Super Kings in next year’s Indian Premier League, where a full six-week stint would net him $1.55m (£950,000). V. B. Chandrasekhar, the director of cricket operations for the Chennai franchise, said: “We’d love to have him play for the full season. I don’t think his not being part of the international scene will impact on his value at all. We saw last season what an influence he could be on the team. Players like him and Matthew Hayden are such big stars that people will come to watch them anyway.”
Flintoff admitted he had not yet discussed his future with his county and Lancashire reacted to the announcement with surprise. “We were somewhat taken aback by the news,” said the club’s director of cricket, Mike Watkinson. Meanwhile Peter Moores, the former England coach now in charge at Lancashire, questioned the wisdom of playing only one-day county cricket. “It will take some planning to make sure you play enough cricket to stay at the standard you want,” he said.
Flintoff could play for Queensland Bulls in Australia’s domestic Twenty20 competition this year, especially after the Bulls bid for his services last time round. For now, though, Flintoff is hopeful of making one last impression on Test cricket. “I still feel over the remaining Test matches I can play a major role. I can’t grumble too much. If someone had said I’d play 70-odd Tests, I’d have snapped their hand off. When I started out at 20, I was rubbish. Yes, I am slightly upset by it, because I’m only 31. But making the announcement is a weight off my shoulders and, although it would be nice to do it personally, I just want to end on a high for the team.”
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009
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