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Flintoff a very English hero

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Ben Dirs | 19:48 UK time, Sunday, 23 August 2009

One day, your son or daughter might pull a copy of Wisden from the bookshelf, or more likely magic Andrew Flintoff's stats on to a computer screen, and ask the killer question: "Was he really all that good?"

And you'll sigh and chuckle, having recalled 'that' over at Edgbaston back in 2005, or his five-for at Lord's in 2009, or his 167 against West Indies in Birmingham in 2004. And you'll find yourself saying, rather patronisingly, "you'll never really understand".

The record books will tell future generations that Flintoff wasn't even the best all-rounder of his time. South Africa's Jacques Kallis, with his 10,000-plus runs, his 31 Test centuries, his 258 wickets, rather swamps Flintoff in terms of cold statistics.

Chris Cairns of New Zealand, in a career blighted by injury, averaged higher with bat and lower with ball. Another Kiwi, Daniel Vettori, runs Flintoff close on batting stats and has taken 18 five-fors to the Lancastrian's three and three 10-wicket matches to Flintoff's none.

But then the English have never really dealt in cold statistics when it comes to choosing their heroes. Most will take the maverick James Hunt over the monochrome Nigel Mansell; the lavishly gifted but fatally flawed Jimmy White over Steve Davis, the cold-blooded winner; "daft as a brush" Gazza over Brand Beckham.Flintoff departs the Test arena for the final time

Indeed, Seve Ballesteros, the winner of five majors, elicits more love from the English public than Nick Faldo, winner of six majors and arguably his country's greatest ever individual sportsman. And perhaps that could only happen in England.

In his book Men of Honour: Trafalgar and the Making of the English Hero, historian Adam Nicolson describes how Admiral Lord Nelson, one of England's first celebrities, provided the template for the English hero as we now recognise him.

The masses in early 19th Century England revelled in Nelson's "sense of daring and totality in his style of battle", just as the English public embraced Flintoff's exuberance, his dash, his swashbuckling vigour. For 'The Nelson Touch', read 'The Flintoff Touch'.

Just as you can imagine Faldo as a dueller in a frosty glade, walking 10 paces before turning and shooting his opponent between the eyes, you can picture Flintoff leaping between a ship's rigging, sword drawn, masts burning overhead, blood and gore spattered all around him.

Flintoff at his best was brutal, destructive, whether with bat or with ball. His twin fifties against Australia at Edgbaston in 2005 included nine sixes and shook the old enemy to the core.

In between, Flintoff sent down one of the most furious overs in Test history: Justin Langer's furniture smashed to pieces, Ricky Ponting confounded by a fizzing leg-cutter. Here, the Aussies must have thought, was Ian Botham reincarnate.

While Flintoff's critics complained about his too-short length and his lack of five-wicket hauls, opponents let it be known that there were few more dangerous foes in world cricket.

"You look through his bare statistics and they probably don't read that flatteringly, but he has an impact on how that team plays and performs," said Ponting when Flintoff announced his retirement from Test cricket last month.

"For that impact he has to be right up there. He just seems to be one of those guys that everyone really enjoys playing with."Steve Harmison and Flintoff celebrate the Ashes victory

Like Nelson, indeed like Botham, Flintoff is rough-hewn rather than polished; a little coarse, but honest. As a result, he is of the masses rather than apart from them.

Many winced when they saw him swaying drunkenly outside 10 Downing Street in 2005. Others giggled with him. Ashes regained, Flintoff got thoroughly banjaxed, and it's what most people in his position would have done.

"The fans can relate to him, he's the sort of cricketer, who plays as hard on the field as he does off the field," said former England skipper Graham Gooch.

"He's a dying breed. The modern cricketer doesn't fall into that psyche, with all the trainers and off-field staff they have following them. I'm afraid that 'Fred' is the last character to play Test cricket. They are few and far between nowadays."

Alas, 'The Flintoff Touch' didn't always extend to the field of play. Largely as a result of his feats in the 2005 Ashes, England's selectors thought he was the right man to lead his country in the 2006/07 renewal.

"I am now set up for a conjuror," Nelson once opined, "and God knows they will very soon find out I am far from being one."

Flintoff, too, was made human on Australian soil, presiding over a humiliating 5-0 drubbing. While his troops let him down, the conclusion was that he was more effective at the spear point than directing from the rear.

Flintoff, like Botham, became less effective with age, his body poorly designed to deal with the rigours of modern international cricket. He managed to squeeze out one last match-winning spurt at Lord's last month and hit a clunking fifty at Edgbaston.

When he was forced to sit out the fourth Ashes Test at Headingley, England duly got clobbered. Then, back in the side for the decider at The Oval, he was overshadowed by the man people are already calling the "new Flintoff", Stuart Broad.

But, like a petulant schoolboy starved of attention, Freddie wanted one last "look at me moment", and he provided it with his scintillating run-out of Ponting, one final match-turning moment.Andrew Flintoff with his mum Susan and dad Colin

The comparisons with Botham are inevitable. On their day, both men could be devastating with bat or ball. Both men challenged the establishment with their off-field behaviour. Both men inspired the love of the masses, Flintoff maybe even more so.

Botham will go down as the greater player, his stats alone attest to that. But the simple fact the question "where's the next Botham" is asked no longer illustrates just how good Flintoff was.

My abiding memory of Flintoff won't be of him stooping to shake Brett Lee's hand at Edgbaston in 2005, as emblematic of the man as that photograph is.

It will be of Flintoff in post-wicket-taking stance in that same series: arms and legs spread wide, chest puffed out, as if every sinew in his body was straining to soak up the adoration of his fans.

They say that even Australian children were striking the 'Freddie' pose that glorious summer. And that is perhaps the ultimate mark of the man.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Greatness is more than statistics, take Schumacher, the stats say he is the greatest racing driver ever, the heart will say Senna every time. There are many other examples of this, Freddie will be remembered as a cricketing great not for his statistical record, but for the moments of pure genius that contributeed to some of England's greatest moments. Thanks for the memories Fred.

  • Comment number 2.

    I was at Old Trafford in 2005 and there was no doubt that the crowds attention was raised every time Vaugan threw Freddie the ball. what the stats don't show is how many wickets he contributed to through the pressure he brought to bear at one end. Teams were not getting too many runs from him so they took more risks at the other end.
    At Atherton said recently a popular cricketer but probably not a great one in terms of statistics however in my view if we consider the galvanising effect he has on the team; up there with the best.

  • Comment number 3.

    there are lies, damned lies and statistics - and in this context I agree with tafer2uk on his sentiments - never mind that his stats aren't going to set the world on fire - better to remember that Fred gave his all to England's cause, especially the Ashes. Thanks Fred for all of your efforts.

  • Comment number 4.

    Freddie was and is a legend in his own lifetime. How many people are known and recognised by just the one name?

    It would have been nice to have better statistics but would it have made any difference to his reputation and the admiration of the public?

    Character, spirit and guts will always count for more than just numbers. I only hope he decides to retire before his body really does give up.

    Thanks for all the memories Freddie.

  • Comment number 5.

    Ben

    A nice overview of Freddie that captures the essence of the man.

    He does raise a smile.

  • Comment number 6.

    Test cricket is never , ever going to see a player who was so loved and who influenced games so much again

  • Comment number 7.

    I wonder what Flintoff's stats would look like if we took away the early part of his career when "The Next Botham" tag weighed heavily on his shoulders.

    Let's not burden Broad with being "the next Flintoff". He has the technique to be far more of a "proper" batsmen and if he looks more at Glenn McGrath as a bowling icon than trying to produce Flintoff-like explosiveness, that will be no bad thing. He can fill Fred's place as the all-rounder in the side, but let's not crush the guy under the expectation that he'll be the same.

  • Comment number 8.

    What on earth was petulant about Freddie Flintoff running out Ponting? For goodness' sake.... that was the reaction of a top dollar cricketer seeing an opportunity and taking it. How many international games have you played, Mr Dirs?

    How fascinating that in true Puritan fashion, the media find something to resent about a pivotal moment in sport.

  • Comment number 9.

    A good and fitting way to remember Flintoff. I agree with the other posts so far, and would like to add that I wonder what his stats would be like for the years 2003 - 2005, when he was described by Boycott as, "England's best batsman and best bowler". It was during this time that he equalled Alec Stewart's record for the most consecutive test 50's (I think...). As to his bowling, yes, he didn't get the rewards, but many commentators who knew a thing or two about batting placed him high on a list of bowlers batsmen didn't like facing. He had a habit of working out (or was it over?) some very good players, including Lara and Gilcrist.

  • Comment number 10.

    a real Roy of the Rovers but alas for not long enough, he may not be a Botham, but hey, he was close, good one Fred.!!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Let me just say I'm super happy we won today, Flintoff or not.

    Nothing against him but it strikes me as dysfunctional that players would allow a single player to be such a 'galvanising influence'. Doesn't this say something about the team? Players should really be putting in 100% at all times and aim to be their own galvanising influence. And people allude to his 'magic aura' as if there is a limit to the amount of 'magic auras' that are allowed in a team. Often it seemed the lauding of Flintoff was the work of desperate people, like lost tribes looking for a new deity.

    I could go on to say this appears symptomatic of the English (and Welsh?) sporting mentality but that requires my own blog. But we won, you say. Yes, but we want more, the players should aim for domination, like what them there Australians had.

    Maybe I'm just saying this because his look-at-me celebrations are really starting to annoy me.

  • Comment number 12.

    Flintoff was average but capable like most test cricketers of being great for short periods (even Bell looks amazing sometimess).There are players whose stats don't quite reflect their abilities but I think Flintoff's stats say it all. He shouldn't even have played in this test as he was clearly still injured and his performance reflected this.

    I'd like to add that the author should put a bit more effort into his writing, Gazza was not only more of a character than beckham but also a much better player and those of us who are sane will always rate Mansell over Hunt and Faldo over any other British golfer.

  • Comment number 13.

    It has long been known in cricket circles that Mike Atherton does not like Flintoff and was critical of his condition in the field to which Flintoff replied by running out Ponting. There is perhaps another one of the Cricketing Commentary team who falls in the same category.

    But I thought Steve harmison handled it brilliantly today on camera when he said in essence that one or two of the so called cricketing pundits neeed to look around and see the effect Flintoff had on the team, the crowd, the opposition and cricket in general instead of sniping from their perches on high.

    Putting it simply, crowds would flock to see Flintoff and flock in the other direction when Atherton came into bat.

    I am a proud Lancastrian and will be buying a Freddie England shirt tomorrow. There is only one use for an Atherton commemorative shirt......to wipe the dishes up.

    Thank you freddie for entertainment and excitement of the highest order.

  • Comment number 14.

    I haved watched Freddie throughout his wonderful career and have often made myself hoarse roaring him on to ever greater acts of heroism for his beloved England. I saw Botham and loved him too, and wondered at his audacity with bat and ball, but Freddie has a fonder place in the hearts of England cricket fans, and many not in the least bit interested in cricket, that can neither be explained nor understood but just felt. Thanks a million Freddie.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    As the article says, Flintoff was better than his statistics suggest. That point is expanded by the first contributor and the second offers an explanation as to why that should be so.
    But why all this emphasis on statistics in the first place? Statistically, we just lost the Ashes.

  • Comment number 17.

    Re 10:34pm girlondonblogger

    It was a metaphor.

  • Comment number 18.

    Flintoff was a true great but unfortunately only for a relatively short time and not certaily a Botham. We had great expectations from his early exploits in 2003 and heroics in 2005, but it all seems a bit short-lived to retire in 2009. A shame.

  • Comment number 19.

    baztheace, you didn't really give a reason as to why RedandBlackJonah and I should 'Go and play shovehappeny numbnuts'.

    I get as a 'proud Lancastrian' you love Freddie and feel the need to defend him. However, I prefer less partisan and emotive dialogue when it come to sport.

    After all it's not a popularity contest or an audition for the nation's hero, it's about winning.

  • Comment number 20.

    Best thing that could happen to English cricket is for Flintoff to retire. The way the rest of the players run up to him like puppy dogs after a wicket says a lot about how many mature, stand-alone players there currently are in the team. Time for guys like Bell etc to become men and take on the responsibility, instead of being fawning fan-boys waiting for their 'talisman' to get them over the line.

  • Comment number 21.

    I'm not quite sure about the thrust of this article Ben. I actually think we English often appreciate a quiet grafter more than a showman, certainly moreso than other nations; Mansell is a huge cult hero, and Faldo's appreciated more and more now (just because Mark James and a couple of other inferior, cliquey players didn't like him because he focused 100% on his game rather than get drunk at the clubhouse with them, doesn't reflect public opinion).

    As for Freddie, in his early years I don't think he had the mindset of a world class professional athlete, but rather saw himself as just a Preston lad playing a bit of cricket with his mates; this is reflected in his weight and inconsistency. Once he got his head together and got serious, he was undoubtedly a great: from the years 2004-2006 he was the world's best. Not only in the '05 Ashes, but the Magnificent Seven summer of 2004; the series victory in SA; and the famous win in India, among others. Sadly, injuries prevented his final three years from being what they could have been.

    As with Gazza and Ricky Hatton, he didn't do himself any favours with his prolific booze intake: all three are were incredibly talented sportsmen who are considered one rung below the very, very best. Had they taken the Faldoesque approach, I've no doubt all three could have been the very, very best. I do think alcohol is an issue that holds back British sport. But I suppose you can't change someone's fundamental nature any more than you can change their fundamental talent; and being drinkers certainly helps people identify with all of the above trio, and thus increases their post-career marketability.

  • Comment number 22.

    I don't remember the Botham days but as a modern day fan I can't remember a cricketer who has generated as much enthusiasm when he has been thrown the ball or come out to bat.

    A man who inspires others must go down as a great as there are not many in that category in any sport

  • Comment number 23.

    Hmmm, interesting debate, as is the statistaical approach we employ in our analysis of the sport. Perhaps in cricket we place more emphasis on the raw stats than in any other sport. In fact so much emphasis that any village cricketer will tell you that 'Smithy, he's just playing for his average!'.

    I have never played test cricket but I have played to a resonable level and am a qualified coach. How good is he? He frightens the life out of me from the sofa and I can't begin to imagine facing one of his more ferocious spells with bat or ball. Yep... I'd say he was a whole lot better than his average suggests.

  • Comment number 24.

    Botham in his time was a great character as was Freddie. I think that Freddie would have liked to have had more of a decisive influence on the last test, but you can't keep a true showman out. I hope he does't sell his sole to whole grain cereal later in life.

  • Comment number 25.

    Botham only played for England for four more years than (super) Freddie Flintoff. His Stats may say he wasn't that good but ask Jimmy and the rest of the England attack how many wickets they got because of Freddie building pressure at the other end. He may not have many fivefors but other bowlers have as many wickets as they do because of him!! Arise SIR FREDDIE!! We love you forever!

  • Comment number 26.

    His presence as a cricketer will undoubtedly be missed. "Something that apparently has magic power," he is a sublime definition of a talisman if ever I've seen one. (Edgesbasdon 2005, Lords 2009) Enough to send shivers down one Englishman's neck as he ripped through the old enemy.

    The way he dictated crowds and ignited stale atmospheres was stunning. Admittedly yes, his averages of 32 odd with bat and ball will not his categorize him as a "great", without his injuries I firmly believe these would have been.

    No doubt he will be remembered for his clusters of talimanic brilliance. (along with pedalos, open top bus celebrations and No.10 shenanigans!)

    He caused media frenzies in a way only he could, and contributed along way to putting cricket before football on the back pages, like we will this over this coming week. His all round aura will be dearly missed.

  • Comment number 27.

    So we are continually reminded that Flintoff is better than the statistics would indicate.

    Well that may be the case, but that's still a pretty ordinary set of test averages he has. In allrounders terms I'd put him near Daniel Vettori.

    Naturally because Flintoff is so adored by people they will exaggerate his on-field achievements. Still he was exceptional in fits and bursts.

  • Comment number 28.

    I just wanted to say one thing i.e the presence of great Andrew Flintoff always imposed a psychological pressure on Aussies.

  • Comment number 29.

    Cannot agree with your "you'll never really understand" or your use of the word "petulant". Flintoff was all about "heart" and every sports person who ever lived understands that. He was not just about "what I have just done" although he made the most of his moments; entertainers and characters play to their strengths and Flintoff could raise a crowd, raise a team, and raise himself above his modest cricketing talents just by being himself - a player with a exceptionally big heart. Doing this he lifted others too.

    Attitude is so important in any team sport and it is often down to one or two players to lift a side above its perceived limits. That is why Flintoff was "great" - Australia would have loved him in their team and you do not need to say much more than that about his "greatness". Perhaps it is you who do not "understand" Mr Dirs.

  • Comment number 30.

    Kind of agree with #12 about Mansell and Hunt - Mansell was far from monochrome and actually provided the public with a good ol' fashioned boy racer as a nice contrast to Professor Prost - monochrome if ever there was one.

    I've always enjoyed watching Freddie at his best - even when the wickets didn't come - but like others I feel he too often played when he shouldn't have done, not his fault at all but rather the fault of public (and selectors') ludricrous expectations.


  • Comment number 31.

    How totally extraordinary that people are complainuing about the use of the word "petulant" in your piece. As the author said - it's a metaphor. I can't help wondering if those people understand even what that word means. If you don't understand English, don't bother to comment please, or everyone else will get really petulant. Awright?

  • Comment number 32.

    Absolute legend in my opinion - a true matchwinner and English hero.
    But I would like to make another point also - I was watching in a pub in Surbiton yesterday afternoon and there was only ONE pub in the whole area showing the cricket! This is quite shameful at this time of year - a direct result of test cricket being jettisoned onto pay TV - Why Oh Why was this allowed to happen and can the BBC rectify this situation?? As our national sport - Cricket should be on view to the whole population! No other country has the same situation!

  • Comment number 33.

    Please resist the temptation to start/join any 'Arise Sir Freddie' campaign.

  • Comment number 34.

    Excellent article- summed it up really well. So much of sport is bedevilled by theory, "correct" technique and raw statistics. And, as Ben suggests, we don't really find much satisfaction in them.

    What inspires is the flair, the being able to rise to the occasion, or sometimes the match-changing moment, that the boringly-predictable, play-it-safe, quitiscential Englishman totally misses because he doesn't dare to think out of the box. It didn't matter that Freddie didn't get a '50', or a '5-for'. What he did do was far more important- he inspired a whole team to believe they could do the "impossible" (i.e. recover from the Headingly drubbing), which was epitomised by the Ponting run-out.

    I'm old enough to remember Lancashire's first Gillette Cup Final in 1970. Clive Lloyd was the then hero. He didn't bat that well, although he got a few. But he was renowned for his throwing arm and, although Kent looked odds on to win at one stage, Lloyd's direct hit run-out (I think it was Bernard Julien) was a moment of inspiration that defined the man and re-ignited the team spirit that carried the Red Rose team through to victory.

    Ask the Aussies who they least like to play against: they know his weaknesses, they know he's more likely to get out to a silly shot than hit that spectacular 6, but it's the unpredictable of which they know he's capable that really undermines their confidence. He puts the rest of his team at ease, something he couldn't do as a captain, incidentally, but perhaps it's because of his flaws that others can relate to him and draw inspiration from him. As in the Ponting quote above, "For that impact he has to be right up there."

    Freddie may only have scored 22 on Saturday, but it was a spring board for Broad's and Swann's assaults that followed and really put the match out of Australia's reach. I can almost imagine him saying to Stuart Broad, as the younger man came out to replace him at the crease, "now it's your turn to have some fun, son".

    The real question is not "who will be the next Freddie?", but "who will be the next talisman?". Who will provide maybe just one moment of magic that will inspire a whole team to rise from a the depths of a backs-to-the-wall, trench-warfare, staring-defeat-in-the-face none-performance to play with an outrageous confidence and will-to-win that grinds down the opposition far more effectively than mere stubborn defence.

    Thanks for the memories, Freddie, you've earned your retirement.

  • Comment number 35.

    But then the English have never really dealt in cold statistics when it comes to choosing their heroes. Most will take the maverick James Hunt over the monochrome Nigel Mansell; the lavishly gifted but fatally flawed Jimmy White over Steve Davis, the cold-blooded winner; "daft as a brush" Gazza over Brand Beckham.

    -------

    It has NOTHING to do with who we prefer. so don't be so patronising.

    Flintoff is a hero and a great cricketer because he was able to do tings that other players could not. He was able to take a flat track and bowl a short spell of such intensity that it could make or break the game. Most of his statistics are dulled by playing far too often while half fit, too many matches where that magic four over spell was accompanied by twenty more of decent but nothing special. He should never have played higher than 7 in the batting order either and over teh years his batting has deteriorated due to an understandable focus on bowling when he was fit.

    Cricket may be a game for statasticians but it is not a game entirely built on stats. Batsmen can inflate averages by simply prodding away better bowlers defensively and making hay against lesser lights (Hick and Ramprakash have learnt this to spectacular success at county level) which can often lead to less wickets for the better bowlers as well. In the end though international cricket is a game of moments, moments can and do change matches and series and Flintoff is a man who you would back more often than nearly every cricketer in the world to provide it.

  • Comment number 36.

    8. At 10:34pm on 23 Aug 2009, girlondonblogger wrote:

    What on earth was petulant about Freddie Flintoff running out Ponting? For goodness' sake.... that was the reaction of a top dollar cricketer seeing an opportunity and taking it. How many international games have you played, Mr Dirs?

    How fascinating that in true Puritan fashion, the media find something to resent about a pivotal moment in sport.

    ------

    Clearly you have missed the point, it was no insult, it was instead a tribute to the kind fo player he was, never one to shy away from anything, always willign to take chances. I fear you have missed the subtlety there.

  • Comment number 37.


    Sportsman Freddie gave some lion-hearted performances rarely seen in modern day cricket. Hats off to the England allrounder. Fine tribute Ben.





    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 38.

    I believe the majority enjoyed Freddie's test match career as he was an entertainer as well as a very good cricketer,I think that he brought interest in the game to a lot of people who weren't cricket fans.His influence was huge for the game I hope that all the cricket playing nations will applaud him and wish him well.It's not so often that we have well liked heros so let's cheer to the rafters for this one

  • Comment number 39.

    Botham was the better strike bowler with seam, surprise and swing; often taking 5fers (match winning wicket halls). Flintoff a difficult bowler to face often collecting 1-3 wickets per innings; but not a Glenn McGrath/Botham.

    Botham's batting was more classic with better technique and footwork. If Botham had better inter innings preparation, his batting would have scored less early dismissals and more big scores.

    Botham and Flintoff were both similar abilities as slip fielders and captains.

  • Comment number 40.

    one thing which was missed about the English and their heroes as is amply evidenced here - there will always be those who love to snipe at them. In this category, Freddie also excels

  • Comment number 41.

    Undoubtedly a very talented cricketer and for a shortish spell (maybe 2.5 years from 2004) was playing great cricket - not quite enough for him to be considered a great cricketer overall. To cross sports, I'd compare him with Shane Williams, the Wales rugby winger - a good amount of talent but only produced true greatness (absolutely world class level performances) for a short period in a longish career, although in Fred's case probably more because of his body not being up to the demands that he put on it.

    Had a touch of Botham about him, although very rarely reached quite the same heights - definitely had a bit of Both's 'Golden Arm', in that he'd take wickets with poor balls or when nothing much was happening in a game, but didn't have the same ability to run through a side. Unlike Botham though, I don't think he would ever have meritted his place in the side on batting alone - had a spell of consistently scoring 50s but didn't convert enough to hundreds and particularly big hundreds.

  • Comment number 42.

    For people who can't read metaphors:

    Freddie is not literally a petulant schoolboy starved of attention.

    Hope that clears things up.

  • Comment number 43.

    Whether or not one feels that darts is a sport or not, to say Faldo is possibly our greatest ever sportsman is wide of the mark. Phil Taylor is hands-down the greatest for sheer volume of achievements. If we discount darts then Botham has a shout. Cricket, like football is a team sport and therefore it is impossible to guage the merits of a golfer vis a vis a footballer or cricketer.. faldo triumphed on the biggest stage 6 times, Cooper just the once but what a feat.
    Flintoff is an enigma and we love him for it and should embrace how he has made us feel but the boy could have been one of the all-time greatest but as you rightly say, wasn't even in the top 2 or 3 of his generation.
    Off the bandwagon people please.

  • Comment number 44.

    Some players, for whatever reason, capture the public's imagination. This makes the public more inclined to forget the failures and focus on the successes. Flintoff does not fulfil the classic definition of an all-rounder in Test cricket, as his batting average is 31.77 and his bowling average is 32.78. I'm not saying that Flintoff wasn't a great player and a whole-hearten England servant, I'm just saying that the aura that was created around him was not necessarily always backed up by his performances on the field. You cannot persuade me that Flintoff was great in this series.

    I'm not trying to be deliberately negative towards Flintoff. His appeal transcended his sport, which is difficult to achieve, particularly for a cricketer, and was ultimately based on some inspirational performances for England. He is a player who will be missed, because he could change a game with both bat and ball.

  • Comment number 45.

    I don't get this hero worship of Flintoff. An erratic performer at best, he has the charm of a rhinoceros and he's chosen to take the easy route of 20/20 cricket. What's it all about?

  • Comment number 46.

    TonyRumbo - Many thanks for clearing that up. Tony is correct when he says I don't literally think Andrew Flintoff is literally a petulant schoolboy starved of attention. Thanks.

    hackerjack - I'm not really sure what your point is. Patronising? Is it not simply a fact that people loved Jimmy White, for example, more than Steve Davis? Maybe not you, but I didn't have time to ask every single person's opinion in the country.

    masterProvidence - I said Nick Faldo was arguably his country's greatest ever individual sportsman. How is that wide of the mark exactly? I like darts, it's good fun, but let's not pretend it is played as widely or is as competitive world-wide as golf. Any other names?

  • Comment number 47.

    Another fine article from Master Dirs that hits the nail on the head, but I'm not sure why it does. Not unlike Fred really, he shouldn't be adored, he shouldn't be considered a great but he is and it makes me feel sad for those like 'tomaths' and even Michael Atherton that they don't get Fred and what he does.

    These are people with calculators for souls and computers for brains.
    Look at the statistics they cry, if cricket was purely about statistics the Aussies would have won the ashes.

    I've just figured out (whilst typing) why we love Ballesteros, White, Beefy, Fred, Hunt, Gazza; we a nation of 'shopkeepers', who apologise when bumping into others, queue stoically, say things like 'mustn't grumble are a nation of puritanical Roundheads...........we so want to be the cavaliers though. The better outfits, the flashing blades and the romanticism of it all.

    All you puritans with statistics for souls will never get 'Fred' I for one am proud that he was ours and he brought a little romance in our structured and puritanical lives.

  • Comment number 48.

    #46

    Here's a few for you Ben: Colin Jackson, Jonathan Edwards, Jackie Stewart, Stephen Hendry, Daley Thompson.

    I think in what you say the operative word is "arguably" - always a good one when you want to say what you think but also want a get-out clause.

    Of my list it would be between Daley Thompson and Jonathan Edwards, the former because he regularly conquered the world in no fewer than 10 disciplines, the latter because he set a mark that is unlikely to be beaten for a generation.

  • Comment number 49.

    Great men produce many things, one of which is faith!
    Faith when all seems lost, faith when there is no point in having faith.

    Why do the crowds roar when the Cap throws the ball to Freddie, because they have faith to believe that 'something' is going to happen... which is where all the comparisions to my school boy hero come from. Another man who you just had faith in...
    What England now need to do is find someone else who they have faith in.. not quite sure young Mr Broad is there just yet.. but here's hoping.

    Freddie thank you for many years of the most amazing drama, thank you for being you and not pretending to be some stuck up, toffee nosed snob.

    You're fellow Lancastrian wishes you all the best in what ever the future holds for you.
    God bless all your family.

  • Comment number 50.

    All credit to the England team on winning back the Ashes.; Fair dinkum is the expression I believe.
    BUT - there's always a 'but' - forget all the euphoria about the Oval victory. Remember Cardiff? Last wicket stand of some 45 minutes between Anderson and Panesaar which denied the Aussies a win which would have meant they retained the Ashes whatever happened at the Oval. Oh what short memories we all have, eh?

    Norman. Cardiff.
    PS Didn't Cardiff provide a great venue for a great match? Cymru am Byth!!!

  • Comment number 51.

    Botham, for me, stands head and shoulders above Flintoff, also as a team motivator. If you've never seen Headlingley 1981, I suggest you buy the DVD of that Ashes series so you have something to compare.
    Botham turned that particular Ashes test on its head with the bat, giving his colleagues hope and, in Bob Willis' case, inspiration.

    More generally, Botham shared Flintoff's knack of taking vital wickets when required, and exactly the same buzz used to go around the ground when his skipper threw him the ball.

    Botham has a knighthood rather than an M/O/CBE because he also raised tons of money for charity with his long-distance walks. Peeing in the Downing Street garden doesn't quite have the same ring of social responsibility to it.

    Flintoff's great, Botham's a true great.

  • Comment number 52.

    A real ledgend of the game and someone who england will struggle to replace not only for his crickiting all round abilty but mostly for his personality and the presence that came with him it will be a while before anybody like him ever comes along again

  • Comment number 53.

    happyhammer, I appreciate your offer of pity, but I don't need it. I'm not sure why attempting to assess Flintoff rationally and statistically means I don't "get" him. As I said, he is a player capable of changing a game with both bat and ball and that he has had some inspirational performances for England.

    I never said that cricket was purely about statistics, however they are certainly part of the game. The best players generally have the best statistics, but I accept that's not always the case, probably particularly with all-rounders.

  • Comment number 54.

    A very good player, a great character and England will struggle to replace his presence. But I still have a nagging feeling about how good he could have been...

  • Comment number 55.

    ben dirs'
    great work sir ben. Freddie is truely our hero. I'm from Ludhiana india.In 2005-06 english team visit Mohali test. I first time went for a test match wid a England flag stiched specially from a tailor. monty was also there he attracted many Punjabis In mohali but my focus was freddi as most of in the stadium.

    Thank god
    we still have one day series hope He recovers soon to be back .....

  • Comment number 56.

    Flintoff was an excellent young cricketer but lost his way for several years and lost his form and physique. When he regained it he was very good but not with both bat and ball together either one or the other. He has lost it again now. He is not as good as Botham - end of argument.

  • Comment number 57.

    'But then the English have never really dealt in cold statistics when it comes to choosing their heroes. Most will take the maverick James Hunt over the monochrome Nigel Mansell; the lavishly gifted but fatally flawed Jimmy White over Steve Davis, the cold-blooded winner; "daft as a brush" Gazza over Brand Beckham.'

    I'm not going to comment on snooker but you might find the English like to celebrate success. I think James Hunt vs Lewis Hamilton is a better comparison... and I would take Lewis as he has the potential to be an all time great. I would never take Gazza over Geoff Hurst or Bobby Moore or even Gary Lineker for that matter. I would never take Will Carling over Jonny Wilkinson.

    And you ignore the fact that Flintoff has success, two Ashes victories... nothing else means more to an English cricketer or the public than Ashes success. Had Freddie not played such a key role in 2005 he would not be seen as being so great a player to us.

  • Comment number 58.

    The reason people love Flintoff is the opposite to the reason they are Frustrated by KP.

    When England are on the rocks and under pressure Flintoff has provided the breakthrough more than any other player in the last 10 years, without him we'd likely have gone into this match 1-0 down with the Aus having retained the Ashes! And even when he didn't have the best game with ball and bat (although his second innings was very entertaining - as sport should be) he still ran out a well set Ponting, taking the pressure of Englands bowlers and putting it back on the Aus.
    Also Flintoff always gave everything, the amount of pressure he created through tight bowling is increadble, but, unfortunatly not statistically recordable, even in his spells during the final test he was agressive and accurate, and when we have people like Harmison and Anderson who spray it around as much as they do, that is sorely need.

    KP on the other hand is often castigated, despite being statistically Englands best batsmen because people don't see as many match winning moments from him (although as a batsmen its unlikely he'll take a 5 for any time soon and so has less potential when fielding), it is the ultimate irony that both of Englands best players get critisied for the opposite reasons! One for not having the stats to back up his match turning moments, and the other for not having the match turning moments to back up his stats.

    Truely we are an ungrateful nation!

  • Comment number 59.

    I'm as big a fan of Freddie as the nexy guy, but I wish he hadn't received quite as much credit for the England performance over the last 5 days. He didn't have a great test really and I don't believe his presence alone brought the confidence to Straus, Trot, Swann, Broad etc who are the real reasons England won the test.

    Freddie IS a legend, but praise should not be reserved for him exclusively.

  • Comment number 60.

    As ever public opinion is divided. Flintoff is far from faultless, and some might argue professionally negligent at times for his approach to being a top flight sportsman. That said he isnt the first to fail in maximising their talent and potential.

    We do love him for all of the failings as well as the tremendous highs of his successes. For those sniping at Atherton's recent article about greatness, re-read it. It is a positive endorsemet of Flintoff's contribution, and expresses a palpable sense of regret that we never received the full extent of his talents. This is an uwaivering truth. Through injury and misadventure he never fully opened up to be the player so many people felt he could have been, and all of us dearly wished he had become.

    This takes nothing away from his ability to galvanise a team, or intimidate an opposition, and contribute to the turning of a game in varying degrees.

    However his acheivements when held up against the best the game has to offer, which must in all seriousness be the ultimate test, are modest. Set in context, let realise of course that this i far better than most of us will ever get in our own chosen field.

    Botham crops up a lot in discussion her; his contribution stands tall amongst world class peers. Flintoff is in the room, but not at the top table.




  • Comment number 61.

    Great article. As a 34 year old I have always looked at Keith Miller's stats and wondered why some years back he was voted by Australians as their #1 favourite cricketer ahead of Bradman. I guess his persona and influence must have been similar to Flintoff.
    Even Botham's stats are okay-some deride him for his earlier performances against Packer-less sides.
    Botham's stats even for the 1981 series hide his impact on the series-I think he only averaged 30 with the bat and when the Ashes were retained in 1987 again he only averaged around the same.
    I listened to the TMS archive of that series and CMJ said that he had an average series. I thought this to be unfair-Botham smashed 138 in the first test to set up a series lead and then in the 4th test-bowling at a pedestrian speed and suffering from a serious side injury-he took 5-41 to set up another win. That is the stuff legends are made off and looking at cold stats hides all of this.

  • Comment number 62.

    Good article Ben - and it has provoked a lot of comments about the minutiae and hair splitting qualities of individual responses.

    Freddie Flintoff has been inspirational at times (less so at others, viz Ashes tour in 2006-07) and has enabled others to draw upon the strength of his performances with wickets and runs at the other end. His triumphalism at running out Ponting was the 'blood and guts' lift he could give the team - and an acknowledgement that he had finally made a significant contribution to the decisive Ashes match.

    Statistics will never tell the whole story and comparisons with Ian Botham are valid only in the sense that they both played inspirational roles at times and both laid bare their failings and frailities... neither was a worthy captain of England.

  • Comment number 63.

    Flintoff is one of the most overrated players in world cricket. Overrated only in England of course, but that's the nature of the thing.

    And even in terms of English players, he is not that good. He is not - for example - even in the same *sport* as Botham, never mind the same league.

    He has had the good fortune on a couple of notable occasions to have been in the right place at the right time, and so English sports fans (for whom reality-checking has never been a popular pastime) have romanticised a kind of minor-league myth around him. It may be poor, but it's the best myth they've got, and in those situations human beings will fight tooth and nail to protect their painted plastic icons.

    In fact, the most significant thing he's ever done is get drunk and go pedal-boating. That was unusual and individual. As a batsman he was never top flight. As a bowler he was laughably inconsistent. As a captain - well, the less said the better.

    But trying to interest most English people in reality has been a losing battle since India gained independence in 1947. So let them have their cricketing fantasies. As for the rest of the world, let's raise a glass - and a smile - for Freddie. A big daft lad who gave us a couple of chuckles.

  • Comment number 64.

    The Hand Of Hidden Forces - !! WDB !!

    Want some peanuts with that bitter?

  • Comment number 65.

    I'd rate Freddie as a world class bloke but only, over the whole course of his career, an average cricketer. The stats don't lie on this completely, but don't necessarily tell the full story. Bowlers work as a team, frequently one will bowl better but the others get the wickets, which the stats don't show. Granted it is a team sport and one individual can have a galvanising effect on the others, which Fred indubitably did. It's one of the few reasons for Collingwood to remain in the team, he provides a bit of grit while his batting and bowling are only rarely influential.

    Fred had the potential to be great, and occasionally was. However great players don't usually dip below a certain level of performance, and he often did, which I suspect many of his cheerleaders forget. Nobody but Fred knows why he didn't become the great player he could have been, and he doesn't owe it to anyone but himself to achieve that potential. I suspect that great players (and great achievers in any field) are fiercely driven personalities, obsessed by their desire to `succeed' at almost any cost. And I suspect that this is why Fred didn't become the cricketer he could have been, it doesn't seem to be in his nature to be like that, he wouldn't or couldn't have taken it seriously enough. He was and is too busy living the life he wants to. Compare him with e.g. Alan Border or Geoff Boycott. Neither of them were massively naturally talented but both, by sheer force of will, determination and terrific hard work, turned themselves into world class players. But they were highly driven personalities, massively admirable, deserving of the greatest of respect for their achievements and focus, but maybe not so likeable.

    Perhaps why Fred is so popular was touched on by frenchstokie, calling him a Roy Of The Rovers character. He really is a like a figure out of the childhood comics, larger than life and full of it, doing things he likes on his own terms, as we'd all like to, and apparently just having a great time doing it. A combination of Roy Of The Rovers, Desperate Dan and Alf Tupper. He's the character we all wanted to be as children, and probably still do.

    Best of luck Fred, I'm very sad to see you go and also sad that you never really managed to be the unarguable all-time great you could have been, but you were and are a great all-round bloke which, in the grand scheme of things, is more important.

  • Comment number 66.

    Thanks for the memories, Fred. A genuine folk hero.

  • Comment number 67.

    All the best Fred!

    I enjoyed watching him play. It doesn't matter the nationality of a player, if they have the impact that Fred so often did, they deserve respect and will be missed.

    Hope he gets that dodgy machine sorted for the lucrative career in IPL that he must be eyeing off now. lol.

    As to the title of the article, well, good luck, it did bring a smile to my face though.

    You managed to knock over an Aussie team in a "rebuilding" phrase...nice metaphor for a bit cr*p. Good luck doing the same with India and SA.

    But then why not?

  • Comment number 68.

    Here we go again!! Flintoff has been a bit part player all summer but he has chased the media so assidiously that it has become all about him. 7,22, a wicket and a runout followed by his I'm Jesus Christ pose. Thank god we'll never see that again on a test match field. At least the new England team will be a proper team not ten players plus someone who thinks he is the equivalent of the rest.

    Sorry, he wasn't a great. He was a good who had great days.

  • Comment number 69.

    Ya did find that pose a little grating myself....I appreciate the theatre of it...but it does smack a bit of someone unaware that other people were involved in the moment that allowed him to be a HERO. lol

  • Comment number 70.

    Has he stopped playing already? I must have missed his greatness then!

    Coz, I do seem to remember a lot of Botham.

    Well.. never mind.

  • Comment number 71.

    I remember telling the Aussies in 1999 that Flintoff was going to take them down, and at that point he was still a young player for Lancashire, of course they thought I was mad. Oh its been good going back these last 9 years and reminding them of the best player outside of Sobers that I have ever seen in my 57 years of watching cricket, cant wait to go back again and remind them who holds the ashes.

    And I do believe if Ponting and Hussey had stayed another 2 sessions they might just have done the impossible, so who won the match, it had to be Freddy for that run out, there was not another player on the ground that could have hit the stumps with that throw. Yes he deserved that glory, it was a piece of magic that will live with everyone who saw it, and it won the ashes I believe. To get Ponting and Clarke so fast, I do believe they could have won it otherwise.

    To the people who have no idea of what a great cricketer is and there are a few writing on here, you must be from another world not to see what this guy has done for English cricket over the last 6 years, and possible people who go through life moaning and jealous of something they will never be in any field they could choose. But this was the best of all time alongside Botham. I would not split them. I hope I live to see another. But we still have him for the one day matches and maybe that batting will show just what he is capable of.

  • Comment number 72.

    Flintoff proved time and time again himself to be an accurate and reliable bowler. By many he'll be remembered for his batting, but in truth with his ability he should have batted for much longer and more consistently. He disappointed all too often with his batting and didn't develop since arriving on the scene.


    His bowling, however, improved immeasurably and he is by far England's most consistent bowler over the past 7/8 years. For that, we will miss him. A total professional on the field - we are short of players as committed and tough. Good bye Mr Reliable and thank you!

  • Comment number 73.

    Was Freddy drunk when he made this comment or did he get knocked on the head with the ball/bat during the game?

  • Comment number 74.

    Though his averages with the bat and ball may not make any sense as to his popularity, the genuine affection that we all have for him and the fact that it is somehow reciprocated is why we will always love him.

    Watched from block 5 (surely we could call it the Butcher stand or something) yesterday at the Oval and contrary to Sydney morning Herald's very own Richard Hins, Ponting got a fabulous reception pretty much everywhere he went, Lords and Edgebaston and undoubtedly at the Oval yesterday. Great respect to him, the only reason people boo you is if you are any good.
    worth a look if posting links are allowed.

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/sport/cricket/fairweather-pom-cricket-fans-enjoy-moment-in-the-sun/2009/08/24/1251001857685.html

  • Comment number 75.

    He had 2 great years 2004 and 2005. Got up to no 4 as a bowler and averaged 50 and 40 those years. He was certainly committed in home series with the crowd behind him against Australia and even South Africa. Maybe less fit and available when it was Pakistan or India.

    The shame of it was in 2004 playing cricket shots he was good enough to bat for anyone and had a chance to have a genuine great hall of fame career (54 players are in the ICC Hall of Fame). As a batter since 2004 it was almost like he lost interest and whilst he played some nice knocks in 2005 they were back to the hit and hope style.

    Stats don't tell the whole story but great players generally speaking have great stats. Some are padded ala Brian Lara albeit at his best the best batsman I have seen which shows how complicated it is. Flintoff was mostly a poor batter at 6 and a stock bowler whose value was undermined by his inability to bowl a lot - sorry less than 3 wickets a test is not a mere stat it shows limited influence in many games, to argue he applied pressure to the opposition is rather disproved given our recent trot of poor winters and mediocre summers till this year since 2005. Indeed our results with and without him are not so different. He was given the ball at key times in the West Indies and this series and came up short mostly. At Lords it took 2 bad'uns to get him to 5 and being left to bowl unchanged at the tail in a hopeless fight (Swann got the 2 of the 3 that counted most that morning Clarke and Johnson).

    I don't see his personality and influence as benign: the cronyism of the 2006 Ashes tour: how he ended up denying ever saying anything to anyone in the KP Moores thing: the embarrassing and debasing stunts he performed for Sky TV: The drunken performances at race courses and football matches he treated us to whilst 'recovering' from injury: We pick a 5th bowler, Mahmoud and he bowls 2 overs of the first 90 in a test with AF as captain, never had that one answered: a captain disappearing on his own to get drunk: picked as captain according to Duncan Fletcher because of the whining likely from the Flintoff/Harmison axis - Harmy rewarded us with wickets at 60 a piece: the exclusion of Panesar for Giles - leading to a scraping gutless and downright embarrasing he said she said with Fletcher in the media during the tour: Most years his batting at 6 was mostly a weakness for England and his fitness meant we could not use him in a 4 man attack. We can blame, rightly, weak, indulging selection and management but how he behaved in such roles is on him mostly.

    Making up euphemisms and intabgibles to explain that lack of achievement in the score book is risible. Pretending he was dedicated and tried all the time off the pitch laughable. It's just sad you can be a huge fan of someone without exaggerating their importance.

    Kallis bowls less and takes circa 2 wickets a game but at a similar avg and RPO to Flintoff as his side is a stronger bowling unit. He averages 54 with the bat and can bat 3. Flintoff 2 years aside was a 7. Kallis could bowl more in a lesser side and does not miss tests when it suits him. Yes stats but the difference is huge and the difference between a good cricketer and a great one.

    To hear him challenge the England team to be no 1 is a sign of his monumental lack of self criticism and staggering hypocrisy frankly.

    Flintoff a good player who had great years. Fully committed when he allowed himself to be fit to play. Your view seems to come down if you think playing Australia is above playing India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan which it is not.

  • Comment number 76.

    As an Aussie I didn't get to see too much of Freddie's career, though he did seem to have the wood over us at crucial times. In the second test you knew when he was bowling another wicket was just around the corner.

    My comment, not to construed as sour grapes I hope, but why does he act like such a prat when he takes a wicket. Mouth open chewing gum, standing still with his arms out wide waiting for his teammates to clamour around him. I felt embaressed just watching him.

  • Comment number 77.

    I think JimDand’s contribution (65) is closest to my feelings on the subject. I’ve always looked on Flintoff as a massively unfulfilled talent; a player who had the potential to be genuinely world class with the statistics to match but never quite did it over the course of his career. Up to a point his failure to do so derived from what could be seen as external circumstances. At the start of his text career nobody- not even he- seemed to be sure whether he has a stock bowler or a strike bowler and his batting technique was full of holes. In his later years injury took its toll. That said, a fair proportion of his problems on the injury front could broadly be seen as self-inflicted due to his lifestyle. But it was the larger than life, pint-glass-in-hand, ordinary bloke enjoying himself, side of Flintoff which endeared him so much to the wider public in England (and indeed beyond) and made that public prepared to overlook his weaknesses. He was a genuine entertainer who really did empty the proverbial beer tent when he went into bat or came on to bowl and there aren’t so many of them in cricket (particularly the five day variety).

    Whether his influence on the England side was altogether positive is much harder to judge and will perhaps only become apparent with time. I can see the arguments of those who’re suggesting that an England side that doesn’t instinctively turn to one talismanic figure to get out of difficult moments will be stronger (though how far was the “Fred the Talisman” perception purely a media one?). He was a disastrous captain (and plenty of folk said he would be from the moment of his appointment). How far, if at all, he was a negative dressing room presence as well as a positive one is something that we’ll no doubt get a chance to pick over a few years down the line when the (usually ghosted) memoirs of the current generation of test players start appearing. The one area where I can imagine he might have had a certain negative impact is one which one has to write about with caution. To the extent Flintoff reinforced a tendency for the England team to bond over alcoholic drinks he may have made it a less welcoming place for players who came from backgrounds where the consumption of such drinks is forbidden on religious grounds and made it harder for individuals from those backgrounds to feel fully part of the team. As I say, this is a very sensitive area when you start pushing it too hard and the issues it raises go well beyond one player, however influential.

    All that said, best wishes to Flintoff in the rest of his career- if he makes a packet from the IPL then good luck to him. His test career had its highs and lows but was always entertaining to watch. Perhaps he could have been an even better player than he was, but he produced some wonderfully memorable moments which will stay with any cricket enthusiast of the present era.

  • Comment number 78.

    His legacy is on view out of my window today, on a cold and wet holiday camp in Hemsby. There are 7 or 8 kids playing cricket with stumps no higher than a foot, all of whom when they have bowled have ran in screaming "Flintoffffff". Much as when I was a kid we all screamed "Yeboahhhhh" whilst hitting a volleyed shot towards the goals made from jumpers.

    Statistics don't inspire people, moments of magic do...

  • Comment number 79.

    some people criticize Flintoff and his legacy - why?
    Freddie admits he is not a great - so, he has been humble

    shoaibh akhtar is more a showman for lesser deeds - Freddie is a higher calibre bowler than akhtar

    most aussie bowlers are obnoxious in appealing - british bowlers are decent and accept refusals well

  • Comment number 80.

    i find it irritating that people are determined to find a 'hero' and to attribute to them characteristics that they clearly don't have and popularity that is exaagerated. People liked him because he won cricket games for England not because he was 'one of the lads', everyone is one of the lads anyway. I think he was a great cricketer esp. bowler because he got wickets when it mattered. The thing that frustrates everyone about England cricket team is that when another team gets on top of them they don't seem able to keep any form and either collapse when they bat or don't get any wickets. I think people think Flintoff is such a good cricketer because he was the only player with the cahunas to step up to the plate and make breakthroughs when it mattered. It is prob not a coincidence that he is the only England cricketer ozzies really respect because they couldn't dominate him psychologically like the rest of the team. When he was playing well he just played well unlike others who fell apart.

  • Comment number 81.

    Flintoff may not be the best player to play the game, but he advocates something that is so often lacking in professional sport these days, that it is important to enjoy what you are doing. He recognizes that many people would give a great deal to be able to play sport for a living, and so has a great time doing it.

    His influence also extends far off the field. He visits school and inspires children, he talks to fans and gets them more involved with the game. He shows that professional sportsmen are not all robot-esque.

    Any calls for a knighthood are, of course, premature. He will no doubt continue his charity work, and only after he has made a significant contribution to that area, as Botham did, should he be honoured again.

    As for the silly argument about whether or not Faldo is one of this country's greatest individual sportsmen, this is surely beyond debate. The man won majors over nine years, not many sportsmen lead a sport for that long, let alone Brits. Daley Thompson was indeed fantastic, (and for the record did not "conquer the world in no fewer than 10 disciplines", he was not even close to being the best in the world in any one of those disciplines! However, Colin Jackson never won Olympic gold, and never really got close to his PB after setting it, a great athlete, but not one of this country's greatest.

    As for Phil Taylor, I struggle to call something that can be won by someone over thirty stones a "sport". Darts is an impressive skill and a discipline, not a sport. Taylor is, however, undoubtedly a master at it.

 

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