Flintoff Rises above "The Welfare State of Mind" That Bedevilled English Cricket

Article excerpt

The nickname that most people use for the young Lancashire and England cricketer Andrew Flintoff is Freddie. I call him Flinty. Whenever he walks in to bat or the captain gives him the ball to bowl, a frisson runs through the entire ground. With him in action, every single spectator expects something extraordinary to happen and, during the current Test series against the West Indies, it almost invariably does. This is a very rare phenomenon in the world of cricket.

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Only recently, organisers of the game were lamenting the absence of huge crowds at Test matches. The five-day match, it was thought, was too long for most potential audiences. Flinty has transformed all that. I went to Edgbaston in Birmingham last month for the third day of the second Test, where I was interviewed on BBC Radio's Test Match Special. The ground was packed to capacity, as it was throughout the match.

When Flinty came on to bowl, you could see, with the naked eye, the physical readjustments of spectators in their seats. Brian Lara, the greatest batsman of modern times, was facing him and looked set for another century. But Flinty dismissed him on 95. He has now got him out several times, including twice, for very low scores, in the third Test at Old Trafford in Manchester. …