It is a truism (so I am told by sharper political minds than myself) that a
lame duck leader, one whose authority is soon to be given to another, is
weakened because his sole method of persuasion, that of future grace and
favour, has been removed. That’s why you shouldn’t announce your departure
any earlier than you have to. Thankfully, cricket works the opposite way round.
Flintoff’s power was not potential, but very much in the here and now. He was
magnificent (at least his bowling was) throughout the test, and especially on
the last day. But those people who lament his going on the grounds that he
couldn’t be that frail given his bowling on Monday are missing what is perhaps
Flintoff’s biggest sacrifice.
Flintoff is a damaged man. His ankles and knees bear the brunt of what is a
frankly pretty horrible bowling action. Although I preach to everyone who
listens of the virtue of a frontish-on action, citing the longevity of
bowlers like Donald, Walsh, and McGrath, Flintoff’s is fairly unique with
the stresses it puts on him. He will have been in pain this week post the
test match, and he’ll probably sacrifice his stomach lining with painkillers
to get fit for the coming match. He’ll bowl at lightning pace, knowing that
if he does, he’ll never be able to bowl that fast again. If he was planning
to stay on and bowl in test cricket after the Ashes, he’d never have bowled
as he did last game. I hope his body stands up this series, but especially
afterwards when he’s playing one-day cricket, and then when he moves on
into the rest of his life. So let us not lament what we are losing in Flintoff
but rather celebrate what he is giving us. And that is a hell of a lot.
On a different note, Pieterson is out for the rest of the series. The
psychological blow has been cushioned by our being 1-0 up, but certainly it
would have been better for us to have him than not. This is a huge
opportunity for Bell. He needs to dominate Australia like Pieterson would
have wanted him to. I think there’s a case for batting Bell at 3, given that
he is a much classier operator than Bopara but also to make him take some
responsibility on again. If he doesn’t score this season, I don’t think
he’ll ever fulfil his potential as an England player which, given his
talent, would be a waste close to the scale of how we mishandled Hick,
Ramprakash, and Devon Malcolm. No pressure, mate.