September 11, 2008

Michael Jeh

Freddie's back

Michael Jeh
Andrew Flintoff can't hide his amusement as South Africa are bowled out for 83, England v South Africa, 2nd ODI, Trent Bridge, August 26, 2008
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From an Australian viewpoint, they don’t come much better than Freddie Flintoff. If the Brits were feeling particularly generous, they might even consider making him an honorary Aussie! We’d love to claim him.

Seriously though, it’s great to see the old Flintoff back in full swing. It’s not just his talent that stands out a mile - to me, Flintoff stands for everything that is good about cricket. He’s almost an Errol Flynn-type character.

Buccaneering - now there’s a word that one doesn’t often get to use in modern language but it was made for a chap like Flintoff. He’s not perfect, he gets into the odd scrape and he occasionally plays a daft shot at a crucial time. Even then, he disarms people with his slightly sheepish grin and his refusal to take life too seriously. There’s a hint of Ian Botham in him in that sense. Cricket seems to be a bit of a lark to him and his persona is infectious. Put simply, it’s hard to dislike Flintoff.

I’m not sure about other parts of the cricketing world but I get the distinct impression that Australians have a soft spot for players like him. They must, first and foremost, earn respect for their on-field skills and Freddie seems to have done that. His lion-hearted performances in the 2005 Ashes as well as some brave, lone bowling spells in the 2006-07 series makes him stand out. To a certain extent, Kevin Pietersen too is a popular figure here for similar reasons.

What makes Flintoff really stand out though is his wonderful ability to play the game “hard but fair”. It’s a term that is terribly overused and often in entirely the wrong context. Hard but fair is not about mouthing crude obscenities on the field, having a beer in the dressing room and then turning on the abuse again next morning. That’s just a winner’s definition of the term. Players like Flintoff and Brett Lee seem to have found that wonderful balance of giving nothing short of 100% with ball or bat in hand but stop short of crossing that fine line that separates competitiveness from boorishness.

Both Flintoff and Lee may have been a bit less so in their youth but that’s just part of growing up. Lance Klusener too finished his career giving the impression of someone who put cricket in perspective. In the modern game, Mike Hussey, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Bond, Kumar Sangakkara and Virender Sehwag appear to have similar sunny dispositions. It could be an elaborate disguise but one hopes not. They all seem genuinely likeable characters.

Back to Flintoff though - he just seems to exude a boyish charm that makes it difficult to dislike him, even in the middle of a hostile spell. Watching him against South Africa recently, he beat batsmen with snorting deliveries and realised the moral victory was his without having to rub it in. When he took a wicket, the celebrations seemed more inward-focused than a triumphalist humiliation of the batsman. Job done - no need to send them off with a cowardly gesture. When he smashed a boundary, he sported a cheeky grin rather than an aggressive fist in the air. It was almost like a schoolboy who’s found a dollar coin in the gutter. He’ll claim it but is almost sheepish about his good fortune.

Lee shares a lot in common with Flintoff - by all accounts, they are both popular figures, even amongst opponents. Every country has these players - genuine ‘nice guys’ who seem to still treat international cricket with that touch of irreverence. Deadly serious competitors but they just know where to draw that line. It’s too easy to focus on those who cross that line and bring the game into disrepute but with a big man like Flintoff, one can only hope that he becomes a hero to more than just British kids. In fact, sometimes, Flintoff acts like a kid himself, kicking up his heels and celebrating simple pleasures, even at his own expense.

At a time when some other notable players are battling demons, Flintoff just seems to be revelling in being back on the park again. A fit and happy Freddy is not just good for England but he’s great for cricket full stop. So long as he retires before the next Ashes.

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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Posted by Malik on (September 18, 2008, 18:06 GMT)

A real humble man inside a true, competitive crickter! we should also not forget MS Dhoni in the ranks....a real hero for Indian team but a great ambassador for the global cricket! (A Pakistani born singapore resident)

Posted by Aussie Din ks on (September 17, 2008, 0:38 GMT)

Mark I lived in Bristol England for 5 years but that did not make me a Brit. All it made me was a resident in the country for 5 years.

Posted by Dimuthu Ratnayake on (September 16, 2008, 10:37 GMT)

it wouldn't surprise me if Flintoff's action wasn't 100% clean, according to an ICC endorsed study, looking at archived footage, almost every bowler "chucked" ppl think the laws were changed for Murali, but the laws needed changing if bowlers were going to be analysed. anyway, this article has nothing to do with chucking! Am a huge Freddie fan and am glag he's back and is performing so well :)

Posted by MarkMark on (September 14, 2008, 20:52 GMT)

"By the way people Brits that live in Australia are not really Aussies."

That would make the population of Australia around half a million then if you use your strange logic.

Posted by Aussie Dinks on (September 14, 2008, 8:40 GMT)

By the way people Brits that live in Australia are not really Aussies.

Posted by Aussie Dinks on (September 14, 2008, 8:25 GMT)

Ummm Geoffrey what part of Test Match played in England do you not understand that the English actually lost.

Posted by sam on (September 13, 2008, 18:28 GMT)

Jagadish, your comments are pathetic and nonsense to say the least. If freedie is a chuker, try defending Bhajji.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (September 12, 2008, 18:03 GMT)

To the person that called Flintoff a chucker- in slow motion, everybody's elbow bends, no one can keep an unbent elbow during delivery. You have to judge it in 'real time' not slow motion. Everybody knows this, except you, apparently. In real time if there is any doubt, then you can suggest chucking, not in slow motion. Have you seen Sree Santh in slow motion? Look at his elbow.

Posted by Navin Pinto on (September 12, 2008, 16:20 GMT)

The most important cog in the English attack from 2005 that will be missing next Ashes is (S)tres(s)cothick.... or at least, his Murray mints! Then again the Poms should have no trouble finding someone that 'sucks'.

Posted by Ray on (September 12, 2008, 13:15 GMT)

Er... Jagadish, know of any fast bowler who doesn't chuck by your definition?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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