Flintoff says sorry
St Lucia - On a rainy Monday morning after the weekend before, the strip of hotels, bars and restaurants in Rodney Bay – the resort a 10-minute drive from Beausejour cricket ground – had a hungover feel to them.
The Rumours nightclub, where six England players partied with fans until the small hours of Saturday morning, was closed and looked an unlikely site for an international incident.
The chain of events that saw the players fined, with Andrew Flintoff stripped of the vice-captaincy, was pretty much out in the open.
And Flintoff, the main protagonist, was in contrite mood as he apologised to the nation.
In fact he had to apologise three times, as there were separate briefings for broadcast and print media, then an interview with Jonathan Agnew for the BBC’s highlights programme.
Wearing a crisp England polo shirt, flanked on one side by media manager Andrew Walpole and on the other by coach Duncan Fletcher, Flintoff sipped water.
He did not look like the behemoth who roars when he takes a key wicket for his country.
He did not show the self-confidence bordering on cockiness that he displayed in a news conference the day before the defeat to New Zealand.
He looked healthy and increasingly refreshed as he unburdened himself.
Was the Sunday newspaper report correct in its claim Flintoff needed to be rescue from the sea after a drunken mishap in a pedalo?
There was some “poetic license”, he said.
“There was water and there was a pedalo. It’s not something I want to get into. It’s something I’m embarrassed about and ashamed about.”
Was he in danger at any point? “I don’t think so,” he said firmly.
However, he did not try to wriggle out of blame for his part in a night out that went too far with England’s second World Cup match just hours away.
And being prevented from playing against Canada clearly opened his eyes to the severity of pushing an evening out too far.
“It’s been a horrible few days, sat trying to find the scores off the telly and not being involved,” he said.
“Missing games through injury is one thing but missing them through circumstances like this is something I never want to go through again.
“Something like this is never going to happen again. I’ve learned a lot over the last few days.”
Flintoff has always been the people’s champion, which made it all the more significant that England fans had contacted newspapers back home when they saw players out past their bedtimes. This was an event staged for the media but fans watched through the windows as he faced the press and gathered round as he held his TV interview.
When he had finished he walked through the hotel lobby to a round of applause.
“I know it’s going to take time to regain people’s trust but it’s something I’m very keen to do,” he said.
And people are very keen to forgive their hero.