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Andrew Flintoff, whose talismanic performances inspired England to an Ashes triumph, has revealed that he was shot at while fielding during a one-day international against India nearly four years ago. The team management persuaded Flintoff to play down the incident at Delhi in January 2002, but he now feels that more should have been made of the incident, subsequently swept under the carpet as the action of an overexcited crowd.
In an extract from his book, Being Freddie, which was published in The Times in London, Flintoff says: "I felt something hit me and, looking down, saw pellets on the ground. You expect to have plastic bottles thrown at you when you are playing on the sub-continent, but you don't expect to be shot."
But Flintoff claims that he was rattled by what followed as much as the incident itself. "Nasser Hussain got very heated about it in the middle and Phil Neale, the tour manager, came to find out what was going on, but the whole thing seemed to get swept under the carpet," he says. "There was a big story back home to do with crowd disturbances, but Andrew Walpole, the ECB's media relations manager, told me to play the incident down when I was interviewed the following day.
"Looking back now, I think I should have made more of a stand because I wasn't there to be shot at. We explained it away as the crowd just being overexcited at the time, but I wasn't sure about that at all."
In the latest extract, Flintoff has also targetted the former management which leaked details about his weight and general fitness to the media. "When I look back at that era, it's obvious I was out of shape. Possibly the most disappointing part was that my weight - 19 stone - was actually disclosed to the press by the England management.
"The newspapers called me all sorts of things - I was porker, fat slogger, you name it. It was a very low period in my life and there were times when I questioned whether it was all worth it."