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Jonathan Agnew column: Andrew Flintoff's retirement

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

In the manner of Sir Ian Botham, Andrew Flintoff was a magnetic attraction for England's cricket supporters - and one of the most respected opponents across the globe.

Andrew Flintoff
Out on the field, Flintoff gave it his blistering best

While his batting was often a joy to behold, it was the bowling that will be remembered longest - roaring in at full tilt, bowling with hostility and aggression and sending down those thundering yorkers.

Having already retired from Test cricket after the summer of 2009, Thursday's announcement finally scuppers his dream of basing himself in Dubai and living the life of a freelance Twenty20 cricketer.

It would have formed the last chapter of his playing career, but it is one he will sadly be unable to fulfil. He never gave up hope of playing for England, but in truth the national team had already moved on.

Flintoff was told he needed a third big operation on his right knee to carry on, and when I interviewed him earlier this summer he said the whole process of rehabilitation had begun to get to him.

Given the choice between another painful bout of that - the weeks on crutches followed by endless gym work - and getting on with the rest of his life he has opted for the latter option.

Bleary-eyed Flintoff celebrates Ashes win

The problems that developed in his right knee might well have stemmed from the issues that had affected his left ankle earlier in his career.

Really it was such a basic flaw, with the foot pointing down to long-leg rather than at the batsman, and added so much strain to his body. But for whatever reason it was not coached out of him at a young age.

His individual career highlights tend to come from the 2005 Ashes, when he was at the heart of England's unexpected triumph. The extraordinary over he bowled at Ricky Ponting at Edgbaston is top of my list.

There was also some fine batting from him that summer, such as his hundred at Trent Bridge and the crucial innings of 74 at Edgbaston when carrying an injury.

But let us not forget that there were some off-the-field issues which infuriated coach Duncan Fletcher in particular, and which came to a head with the infamous pedalo incident in St Lucia at the 2007 World Cup.

606: DEBATE
PeakingPunchGooner

On that occasion, Fletcher and England's management had clearly become exasperated with his tendencies and had hung him out to dry with the media.

If you talk to people who have played with him and are bold enough to say so, they speak of a person who was not easy at all to deal with in the dressing room.

They say he was a disruptive presence, and that is an image that rubs against the grain of the punters who bought their tickets and watched him perform on the field with such whole-heartedness. Out on the field he gave it his blistering best.

He was very widely loved by everyone. When you recall the interview he did with me when he was drunk on the bus after the 2005 Ashes, people let him off because he was Freddie.

He had such an endearing smile, and was very engaging and charming when you interviewed him.

Sir Ian Botham
Sir Ian Botham is the most directly comparable past England player

We will, of course, miss him and England's bowling attack still miss him now. They need someone who can bowl nastily at tail-enders and produce hostile spells.

And when you reflect on the many fine batsmen who had to play against him, it was clear they respected him enormously. They chose to see him out and score their runs at the other end instead.

His statistics are tinged with disappointment. To average more than 32 with the ball in Tests and less than 32 with the bat is not ideal for an all-rounder. He would have hoped to bat in the high 30s and get his bowling average down to the mid-20s.

As a bowler he possibly deserved more wickets. Whereas Botham found strange and sometimes fluky ways to get people out, Flintoff was a genuinely unlucky bowler.

In terms of gauging where his future career lies, first of all he has to decide whether to continue living in Dubai, return to England or move elsewhere. I cannot see him coaching. I think he will take a break, but may turn up in a commentary box or two in the interim.

These are decisions for him to make, and there is the possibility of a career in TV entertainment. I am certain we have not seen the last of Andrew Flintoff.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's Oliver Brett



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see also
Ashes hero Flintoff quits playing
16 Sep 10 |  England
Reaction to Flintoff retirement
17 Sep 10 |  England
Flintoff's Test career in pictures
28 Sep 09 |  England
Vaughan fears for Flintoff future
04 Aug 10 |  Cricket
Flintoff targets bowling comeback
27 Jun 10 |  Cricket
Flintoff undergoes knee surgery
25 Aug 09 |  England
Flintoff quits Tests after Ashes
15 Jul 09 |  Cricket
Flintoff 'was drunk at practice'
29 Oct 07 |  England
Ashes 2005: Series of the century
01 Sep 05 |  Story of the Series


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