While many Lancashire patrons have certainly been rubbing their hands together at the prospect of getting to see Andrew Flintoff in action once again, there is one England legend in particular, who feels that the all-rounder is making a mistake.
Writing in his column in the Daily Mirror - as relayed by Sky Sports - Sir Ian Botham lamented the 36-year-old’s decision to make a shock return to domestic T20 cricket. Botham – who Flintoff was likened to during his England career – believes that it could be a very different player that crowds are presented with over the coming weeks.
In his column, Botham wrote: “We've not seen Fred on a cricket field since those memorable days in 2009 – and five years is a long time out of the game.
“For those that can't remember that far back, Fred had no choice but to quit cricket because of a chronic knee injury that had made walking difficult let alone bowling at 90 miles an hour.”
Persistent injuries hampered Flintoff’s playing days, forcing him into early retirement after clinching the Ashes for a second time against Ricky Ponting’s Australia five years ago.
Since then, the ex-England captain has ventured into several different career paths, including being a team captain on Sky1’s A League of Their Own and making his professional boxing debut.
But while he came out of his maiden bout relatively unscathed, there is no knowing how much damage a four-over spell could do him.
As Botham mentions, bowling at the high speeds that Flintoff could manage before took their toll on the all-rounder. There is a strong possibility that we will be watching a player at half capacity when he makes his likely return against Yorkshire on Friday.
After striving to get himself fit enough to partake in the Lord’s bicentennial match at the beginning of July, Flintoff returned to former club, Lancashire, to prepare in the most professional manner. But the winner of 79 Test caps was overlooked for the game between an MCC XI and a Rest of the World side.
Nevertheless, the progress made in Manchester has handed him the opportunity to once again play for Lancashire. It is obvious that the re-acquisition of Flintoff will have a positive affect on the number of seats that are filled for the county’s remaining T20 games.
Lightning have made a thunderous start in the shortest format of the game, winning four of their opening five T20 Blast games this summer. With that in mind, it could prove problematic for the former England star to force his way into the side. But when he does return, there is the risk of recurring injuries flaring up.
The last thing anyone wants to see is Andrew Flintoff being stretchered from a cricket field once again.
Botham also added in his column: “While I wish him all the very best, I think he is making a massive mistake.”
Flintoff is expected to return to professional cricket against Yorkshire in the Natwest T20 Blast on June 6.
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