Andrew Flintoff: 'I still think I'll get back to the top'
'Freddie' will not be fit until July, but he tells Chris Brereton he hasn't given up on his goal to be the world's best one-day player
Tuesday 13 April 2010
Andrew Flintoff sits in the Long Room at Old Trafford looking relaxed, tanned, the ubiquitous energy drink in his hand and a smile spreading across his face. Given that nobody could have blamed him if he had decided to be thousands of miles away instead, he is in remarkably good form.
That may not be unrelated to the fact that the unseasonal Manchester weather (ie, it is not raining) means there are worse places to be than the North-west right now, even if Flintoff's new home – Dubai – wouldn't necessarily be among them.
The all-rounder could quite easily have ridden into the sunset in August, safe in the knowledge that his crucial run-out of Ricky Ponting in the vital fifth Test of the Ashes at The Oval had reinforced his place among English cricket's few modern immortals.
That match marked the end of Flintoff's Test career but he is still keen to play a role for England in the one-day game. Unfortunately, the knee injury that affected him throughout last summer's series has not yet cleared up and Flintoff is unlikely to be seen in an England shirt for some time yet.
"I don't have a date I can pull out of the air [for when I will be fit] but after the last op they said five or six months which will take us to July or early August," he says. "I want to get back on the field for Lancashire and then take it from there. [Being injured] has become part of my life, with all the injuries I've had in the past three or four years, so I just get on with it."
Flintoff says he has contemplated retirement as a result of the litany of injuries he has endured. "Before every operation, it [retirement] does cross your mind. However, I've always said that while I feel I can play I will do – if I feel I can play as well as I did before I was injured then I'll carry on.
"That's still the case. I still think I can come back and perform for Lancashire, at the highest level as well. I just have to do it."
Flintoff's desire to return stems not just from his yearning to play for England, though. "A lot has been said about freelance cricket and playing here, there and everywhere, and I'd like to," he says. "I'd like to play in the Indian Premier League, and there was some chat about playing for an Australian side and various things – but that is all in the future. I've got some hard yards in front of me in the next few months before I can do any of that.
"The goal at this stage is short-term – I've got to get back running first and then get a bat in my hand and a ball and go from there."
For now, then, cricket fans' last memory of the imposing all-rounder will remain that vital run-out at The Oval last August. At 217 for 2, Ponting and Mike Hussey were enjoying a third-wicket partnership worth 127 and they looked dead set on assaulting the world record target of 546 for victory that England had set.
But Hussey then clipped the ball to Flintoff at mid-on, who moved with more guile than should have been possible for a man playing on one leg, and he threw down Ponting's stumps to prompt the start of Australia's downfall.
While Flintoff says he is quite willing to feature in the four-day County Championship for Lancashire "if I get in the team", he remains adamant that Tests are quite literally a step too far. "I had my time in Test cricket and I loved it," he says. "To have my opportunity and to finish in the way we did at The Oval was perfect.
"I'm sure in the winter, watching Jimmy [Anderson] running in and knocking the Aussies over will make me a bit jealous but I will just revert back to being an English cricket fan and just watch it and be pleased for everyone.
"It was a decision that was made and I'm happy with that and comfortable with it. I've seen other things in life and I'm spending time with the family so I'm really enjoying that.
"I'm not quite sure I would fancy going on tour for three or four months again. I've found I'm enjoying my life."
That is a life being lived in Dubai, where Flintoff – with his wife Rachel and children Holly, Corey and Rocky – now resides and it is where he will return to on Thursday to continue his recovery.
When he announced his decision last July to retire from Test cricket, it came with the cushioning caveat that he wanted to be able to concentrate on "becoming the best one-day player in the world" but that was nine months and two operations ago. Is it still possible? "I'm confident of doing that," he says.
"I went to the Indian Premier League last time [for Chennai Super Kings in April last year] and was found out a little bit because the game's changed. From the techniques of batters hitting yorkers to the amount of slow balls – so there is a lot I can improve on as a cricketer.
"If I can find my game and adapt my game to what is going on in world cricket now then I don't see any reason why not."
Flintoff's first target, though, is getting fit and getting into the Lancashire team. If he can do that, he reckons, then the national side would be next.
Can he see himself playing for England again? "If I feel strong enough to get in the Lancashire team, it would be nice to." Plenty of England supporters would echo that sentiment.
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