Andrew Flintoff: 'For cricket's sake, we must play fewer Tests'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

In the first major interview since he announced his retirement, the all-rounder talks to Stephen Brenkley about the rise of Twenty20, and how it will feel to see England play without him

The conquering hero left his helicopter yesterday and wandered over to the school cricket field. There, a bunch of rapturous children greeted him. "Freddie, Freddie, Freddie," they cried. Andrew Flintoff was on a whistle-stop tour of his own cricket academies – he went to Bristol and, via the chopper, to Bolton. And if they would have been star struck to see him in any event, his deeds at Lord's earlier this week took the elation up a notch or 10.

As usual, he was perfectly at home among his audience, for Freddie is truly a man of the people. They warm to him as to few cricketers. They love the bravura manner of his performances, born of courage and desire and the clear evidence that, despite the torture his body has been through these past few years, he is happy in his work.

They adore the fact he likes a pint.

But Flintoff had a warning for those who think that the Ashes are coming home this early in the piece. He said: "If we think we have done anything so far then we will get found out," he said. "We have won one Test match and that's all we've won. It's great and we enjoyed it but it's now about getting ready for next week and we have got to perform as we have or even better.

"The two sides are dramatically different in appearance from the last time we played in 2005 and I think they are close. That's what we might see over the next three matches, the series is obviously hotting up nicely."

Flintoff is in considerable discomfort – and often something worse – from the knee on which he had surgery only weeks ago. But he is desperate to play in the final three matches of the Ashes series and, after his extraordinary spell of hostile fast bowling, starting on Sunday and culminating on Monday morning at Lord's, it is clear that the Ashes now are also a Farewell to Freddie.

It is not what he wants particularly, although it is easy to see that he likes the roar of the crowd. On Monday after his first, crucial wicket of the day to end the worrying partnership between Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke, he stood without fuss in the middle of the pitch.

But by the end, when he completed his 5 for 92, he stood there, his arms spread wide like the Angel of the North come to life. In Bolton yesterday, where he entered thoroughly into the spirit of the coaching – and had a 30mph underarm hit for six by Sam Barnett – it was hard to tell who was the more rapt, the kids or their parents. That is the measure of true stardom.

Flintoff insists that his attention is solely on the matter in hand, treating the knee as carefully as possible, and that nothing else matters but the next three matches.

"There is no time for sentiment," he said. "I will worry about that when I finish at The Oval. Walking off for the last time at Lord's the other day was special. I sat in the dressing room and had a look around and felt pretty pleased with myself.

"It probably hasn't hit me yet, in a few weeks, maybe when the lads are playing in South Africa this winter, that's when it will hit me. But for now I just want to focus on playing at Edgbaston and performing."

Freddie is giving up Test cricket after the Ashes to play one-day internationals and Twenty20 cricket in the Indian Premier League and perhaps elsewhere. It is his body that has told him to go but it is obvious that Twenty20, in particular, poses a threat to the longest and purest form of the game. He was surprisingly pragmatic about this.

"The public will decide the future of Test cricket," he said. "If people turn out to watch Twenty20 and not Test cricket then it could happen. In England we need to maintain the appeal it has. We have seen in the past few years what it means to people and we have to preserve that for the good of the game and the tradition behind it because it is a great format. The one thing we need to do to continue to maintain Test cricket as being special is cutting down the amount and make it a real occasion rather than playing one after another."

The last point is pertinent but unfortunately it has fallen on deaf ears in the corridors of cricketing administrative power. Perhaps they may be more prepared to listen now that one of the game's pukka heroes has gone. If the endless litany of injuries was the overriding reason, there were other matters to take into account.

"The family is a consideration, one of the kids starts school this year and it is getting more and more a factor. But ultimately it has been my body."

There would be a deep irony if Flintoff's long-term presence in Twenty20 further erodes the appeal of Test cricket, which in 2005 he did so much to revitalise. "It was interesting coming here today and asking the kids what form of cricket they like best. They like the glitz and glamour of Twenty20 but maybe Twenty20 could have a knock-on effect so that players start with it and then work out how to play the longer form. So it could have a positive effect but it's going to have to be handled very delicately."

But Flintoff told his audience at a question and answer session – and he reinforced the point later – that nothing gives a cricketer a buzz like the Ashes. Nothing makes him more determined or proud and it is why he will drag his body to the starting line next Thursday. When he is done he will have more time to spend on his cricket academy, run by his Lancashire team-mate Luke Sutton, and the Andrew Flintoff Foundation, about both of which he is passionate.

And will he have any regrets? Taking on the captaincy in the last Ashes series, perhaps, which ended in a 5-0 whitewash for Australia and left Flintoff visibly scarred with pain that had nothing to do with his body.

"When you get offered the captaincy you've got to have a go," he said. "In India, where it went well, I was playing well and anything that needed doing I'd do it myself. When I wasn't playing well it was tough. I'm glad I had a go, maybe it saved [Andrew] Straussy. It might have been different. The right man has ended up with the job but maybe I took one for the team out in Australia and now Straussy can go about his business."

And maybe he did. Flintoff will be in the hearts of the nation in the next six weeks and sometimes those hearts will be in their mouths. He is playing Australia and nothing will ever be better than that. But he has not forgotten where he came from as he remembered yesterday when he was asked about his proudest moment.

Flintoff, long before he became Freddie, played his first game for Lancashire Under-11s when he was nine. He was awarded a cap with a red rose which he wore for three weeks. How the audience loved that and the story about his first ever match for Dutton Forshaw Under-11s in Preston when he was six and out for a duck.

He knows he is a better bowler than ever – "but it's too late" – but has a fond wish to hit the Aussies for six with the bat. "I'm still a batter, I still want to perform, but most of all I want to be there and performing."

Win 10 places at Andrew Flintoff Cricket Academies

We've teamed up with The Co-operative Food to give away 10 places at Andrew Flintoff Cricket Academies around Britain. The places are available to boys and girls aged seven to 16, and the courses last five days, with the aim of developing cricket skills and having fun.

"It would be great to produce the next star, but it's just as important to inspire someone who has never played the game before to take up the sport, and for cricket to then have a positive impact on their life, regardless of how good they become," says Flintoff. "So if your son or daughter is a keen cricket fan this a unique cricketing experience."

The dates and locations of the courses are: Amesbury, Surrey (3-7 August), Worcester (3-7 August); York (3-7 August); Bedford (10-14 August); Bath (10-14 August); Nottingham (10-14 August); Peterborough (17-21 August); Alderley Edge (17-21 August).

Each winner also receives a free academy cricket shirt, and there is a final awards ceremony at each academy with prizes, certificates and giveaways. Flintoff, or another past or present England player, will visit each academy.

To enter, answer the following simple question: Against which nation did Andrew Flintoff make his Test debut?

Email your answer to:, stating your full address and daytime telephone number, putting the name of the academy you wish to attend in the subject field.

The Andrew Flintoff Cricket Academy in partnership with The Co-operative Food – Good With Food! For more information visit www.

* Terms & conditions: Entries must be received by Friday 24 July. Winners will be picked at random and notified by telephone or email on Wednesday 29 July. The Editor's decision is final. Only one entry per household. See for standard Independent terms and conditions.

Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?