Andrew Flintoff predicted England would have no trouble winning the Ashes in Australia “quite convincingly” without him, soon after announcing his retirement from all cricket.
The 32-year-old all-rounder finally admitted defeat in his longstanding battle against a knee injury that had already forced him into quitting the Test format and meant he had not played any major cricket whatsoever since helping England regain the Ashes at The Oval last year.
For all Flintoff was the central figure in England’s 2005 Ashes triumph, his display, a brilliant fast bowling spell in last year’s second Test against Australia apart, had been tailing off in the closing stages of his career.
And England, in the more than a year since he has been most recently out of international cricket, have drawn a Test series in South Africa, defeated Australia in the World Twenty20 final and in a home one-day series, while besting Bangladesh home and away.
Earlier, Flintoff, an aggressive seamer and big-hitting batsman, said he’d retired on medical grounds ending any hope he might turn out for state side Queensland in Australia’s domestic Twenty20 compeition.
“The decision to end my career came yesterday (Wednesday) after consultation with medical advisers.
“Having been told that my body would no longer stand up to the rigours of cricket, I had no alternative but to retire.”
For all Flintoff’s great deeds on behalf of England, it was clear some of his former team-mates regarded persistent talk about his possible return as an irritating distraction.
Meanwhile his repeated insistence he didn’t like the spotlight away from the game was in contrast to the frequency with which he turned up to just about every endorsement opportunity that came his way.
But there was no denying his importance to the England team in the years of his pomp, an importance in no way reflected by career statistics which, as Flintoff has acknowledged, left him some way short of being classed as one of cricket’s “greats”.
England captain Andrew Strauss, acknowledging Flintoff’s contribution, said: “He was always the ultimate impact cricketer, somebody who on so many occasions stepped up to the plate.
“He would put his body on the line on flat wickets when other bowlers were maybe starting to struggle. Because of the way he bowled, and what he put into it, it was probably not as easy for him to get seven-fors and eight-fors,” the opening batsman added.
“But if you talked to other players around the world, they would always say Andrew was one of the bowlers they least wanted to face — because he could be so hostile.
“We are all striving to gain the respect of our peers,” Strauss said. “Andrew certainly did that.”