Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Andrew Flintoff’s career

Once again, Andrew Flintoff has been declared unfit because of his old ankle injury. It looks likely that he will miss the rest of the NatWest Series and the Twenty20 World Championship. On top of recent niggles with Dorset Knee and missing the entire test summer, Flintoff has had an unfortunate spell.

He is a big chap. And he bowls fast. Consequently, his lower joints and feet are under a lot of strain. This is a pity because, at the moment, he looks like our best one-day bowler. Indeed, he took a career-best of 5 for 56 the other day against India.

The question is, however, how long can this continue? If you are losing one player to constant injury, then it has a pernicious effect on the side’s morale. Moreover, you cannot invest in a long-term replacement for the man; you’ve only got a nearly-man struggling to secure his space. On top of that, you’ve constant arguments about who to replace Flintoff: another all-rounder? A batsman or bowler or what?

There comes a point when the destabilising effects of a missing man out-weighs the positive influence of his presence. I’m not sure we have reached that point with Flintoff yet, but it is something that needs to be considered.

Indeed, more important for Flintoff personally, is his test career. It appears that his body is struggling to cope with the strain of a one-day much. But how will it cope with bowling 70 overs in a test match?

Do you remember the end of Darren Gough’s career? He was our best fast bowler for a generation, and a vital part of England’s attack. A long-term injury had him out of the side for about a year, I think. When he returned, to much heralding and cheering from England fans, he looked a little under-cooked. There was a noticeable lack of pace. He was past his best, and his international career petered out into a sad slump.

No one really wants that to happen to Flintoff. But people need to think seriously about his long-term prospects.

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