Andrew Flintoff's injury woes April 25, 2009

Flintoff's costly experience

Andrew Strauss was asked at a press conference this week whether he had been watching the IPL and, if so, how much of that time had been spent hiding behind the sofa in fear of an injury to a star player
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Andrew Strauss was asked at a press conference this week whether he had been watching the IPL and, if so, how much of that time had been spent hiding behind the sofa in fear of an injury to a star player. His response was straight batted. "There's always a chance of injury," he said. "Short of wrapping them up in cotton wool and not allowing them out of their beds there's nothing you can do. We play cricket, that's what we do. I'm not overly worried."

He'll be a lot more worried now after Andrew Flintoff limped home for a knee operation. As the ECB's press release was at pains to point out, injury can indeed occur at any time, doing anything - Phil DeFreitas missed the first two Tests of the 1993 tour of India after slipping in the shower - but there are ways and means of reducing one's exposure to risk. Allowing Flintoff to play in the high-velocity, high-impact IPL so soon after injury will be perceived by many as a risk too great ahead of an eagerly anticipated Ashes series.

When Flintoff flew home from West Indies with a damaged hip, hours of air-time and countless column inches were devoted to the issue of whether the all-rounder should be allowed to take his place with the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL. Concerns over his fitness were partially allayed when he closed out the one-day series in the Caribbean with a hat-trick, and the green light to South Africa was given.

Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, who has made more than his share of difficult decisions this winter, was presumably relieved to have been spared another, and the restraint of trade debates that would undoubtedly have arisen had he placed roadblocks in Flintoff's path. But the issue was not so cut-and-dried. Certainly, Flintoff was entitled to maximise his earnings, particularly with his international career showing signs of stalling, but as the Australians have identified, sometimes there is more to life.

If Flintoff hadn't been playing for Chennai Super Kings he could well have been playing for Lancashire, at Hove, in the County Championship. Being the player he is, Flintoff would have bowled flat-out and for a heck of a lot more overs. But he would have been doing it at home, not justifying a $1.5 million price tag, which would have brought a greater degree of sympathy however hypocritical that may seem. And, maybe not insignificantly, he would have spent a lot of time stood at second slip rather than flinging himself around an outfield.

It is true that English cricket is unhealthily obsessed with the Ashes, but therein lies a signpost to a course of action the ECB might have adopted. Victory in 2005 propelled the profile of English cricket to a height not seen in decades and Flintoff, as the headline act, became a very wealthy man in the process. Surely, if England were able to repeat that success this summer, his value would skyrocket again. The IPL isn't the only way to earn good money in cricket. It's just the quickest.

After the various debacles of the winter, which included the loss of a captain and coach, as well as the unseemly Stanford saga, the ECB's image is at a low ebb. The loss of Flintoff ahead of an Ashes summer is yet another black eye; particularly when Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and Mitchell Johnson have forgone the IPL's lucre to recharge ahead of their arrival in England.

At that same press conference, Strauss spoke positively about the resolution of England's protracted coaching search, and the ability to finally sit down with Andy Flower and devise plans for the summer. Central to those plans will be Flintoff but now, once again, the planning will revolve as much around how to play without Flintoff as with him.

Before England fans get too depressed (and seek solace in the statistic that shows England winning more matches when Flintoff is absent) the good news is that the he should be fit in time for the Ashes. The ECB's positive spin, which worked in overdrive on Friday, said he would be recovered in time for the ICC World Twenty20. Many people will believe that when they see it, but either way surgery is hardly an ideal preparation.

It is no coincidence that as Phillip Hughes put the finishing touches to his maiden century for Middlesex at Lord's this week, talk turned to how England might bowl to the rookie Australian opener during the Ashes. "Flintoff round the wicket" was a popular option, just as it was to Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist four years ago. Whatever the numbers say, Andrew Strauss must have that option again this year, but now is left with a nervous wait. Time to hide behind that sofa.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • EdwardMills on April 27, 2009, 21:33 GMT

    It's unreasonable to EXPECT a player, especially one who's now in the latter part of a career which, after cumulative injuries could end any time, to turn down the IPL money. It's equally difficult to enforce it in a way that looks consistent. How well would a ruling that prevented bowlers (greater injury risk) taking part, effectively banning all the England players except Kevin Pietersen have gone down?

    If the England players currently in the IPL had been barred from going, what would they be doing now? Presumably the same as the other England players, ie playing County Cricket as a warm-up for the Test Series. So if Flintoff had played for Lancashire last week and suffered exactly the same injury, as is perfectly possible, who exactly would we be congratulating now and for what?

  • Wakeybeancounter on April 27, 2009, 10:31 GMT

    KP says there is little the boards can do to stop players going to the IPL.Really I thought a contract was a contract and these guys have contracts.Just write it into the central contract and if they do not want it do not to play test cricket so be it.End of story.Test cricket will be around long after the IPL has crashed and burned.Funny though the aussies manage to control their players but the ECB is so scared of a couple of super stars that they make the rules up as they go along.All this has done is again expose the spineless amateurs that run cricket in England who it seems are incapable of managing any facet of the game.

  • Daniel_Smith on April 27, 2009, 7:45 GMT

    The tone of this article seems to suggest that Andrew Flintoff had no say in what he does. He chose to go to South Africa.

    If he is injured for the Ashes, so what? He is no good to England half fit, and there should be plenty of other good cricketers to take his place. Cricket is a team sport.

  • srinivas_Brisbane on April 27, 2009, 2:08 GMT

    Hey, a weak knee is a weak knee right? Had Flintoff played County cricket (or even jogging for 2 continuos hours), where situations would be tougher than IPL, his weak knee would have fallen apart, anyway. This is good for English cricket because now atleast he has a chance for rectifying the issue and probably getting ready for the Ashes. What I hate is the fact that all the comments are bringing the player (Flintoff) down. Why? He is just another (really good bowling allround) cricketer who wanted to join the big show.

  • Dhandev on April 27, 2009, 0:32 GMT

    Ok. Fintoff gives the Englisg team more depth in both bat and bowl. Therefore, he should stay in the team. Its not his fault for injuring his body or whatver. People dont abuse Flintoff, because how would you know how it feels to be an international cricketer and the stress one has to go through.

  • kalyanbk on April 26, 2009, 14:17 GMT

    Flintoff's experience was costly all right.. to the Chennai Super Kings.

  • Whiteline on April 26, 2009, 13:00 GMT

    Lads, I'm back to remind you that Freddie is the most over-rated (and overpaid) cricketer of all time. Need I remind you that he averages less than 3 wickets per test - read it again if you have to. Plus he has only 5 test centuries....The hype never ceases to amuse. At last check he averaged around 31 or 32 with both the bat and ball...average in anyones language.

  • kvsng on April 26, 2009, 8:29 GMT

    If an international cricketer cannot bowl 4 overs, bat 1-4 overs and field 20 overs daily, he should be staying at home (house husband/partner which can be much more strenuous). I feel pity for the persons who blame IPL for the fitness problems. Why don't they just enjoy the great idea, it's execution and the entertainment. IPL was needed for the progress of cricket to next level. People should come out of their shell of hypocrisy and jealousy. These people will have absolutely no complaints if it was English premier cricket league or an Australian one. I can say this inspite of being a fan of test cricket.

  • Zaheerahmed on April 26, 2009, 7:26 GMT

    Very soon cricket boards around the globe would have to think should they allow their key players to exert themselves in meaningless matches where they are not representing their country and get hurt and miss crucial matches for their national side.

  • jalps on April 26, 2009, 6:57 GMT

    Two points. Firstly, regarding Flintoff's right to earn money. He is centrally contracted to the ECB. Imagine if your boss let you take a couple of weeks off to work for a competitor and then you got injured working for them. Would they be happy paying your salary while you were unable to work and, presumably, paying for your medical treatment? Secondly, Andrew mentions that England win more when Flintoff is absent; since the Ashes in 2005 England have 10 wins and 3 losses without Flintoff and 3 wins and 13 losses with him. My personal suspicion is that this is because of the selectorial gymnastics that they have to go through to get Flintoff in as an all-rounder, see the difference between the series against Pakistan and the later Ashes tour in 2006. In this period he averages 28 (less than Broad) and hasn't scored a century. He's a very good bowler but having him come in at 6 destroys the batting line-up.

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