well, this day may very well have seemed inevitable for over a year now, but it doesn't make it any less sad - Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff has retired from all forms of cricket.
vast amounts of ink and internet space are going to be taken up with a rightful if statistically confusing celebration of an incredible career. why statistically confusing? well, when you look at it, England lost or drew more often than not when Freddie was in the team, and his averages are respectable enough compared to what you or i could wish to do, but suggest he should have concentrated on one discipline or the other rather than being an all rounder.
and yet, despite that, Freddie when fit would be the number one choice on any team sheet you care to draw up.
so why do we all love, cherish and celebrate Freddie if not for his facts and figures? because he's a lad with a big heart and a level of dedication that outweighs any and all concerns one might raise about his technical abilities.
Freddie personifies all the reasons people love the game of cricket, if not the technical factors. he plays (or played, if you will) his guts out to strive for victory, but never ever lost sight of the fact that it is always the game which must be the winner, then the side who happens to do best in the match. this was shown off in a certain image taken after a breathtaking win by 2 wickets in 2005 - an image of what cricket is and stands for that was not only the best of 2005, but remains the most enduring image of the 21st century and could well be, when all is said and done, the greatest single image of the cricket ever.
legends have sprung up around exactly what Freddie said to Brett Lee in the above picture, of course. no one knows the exact words, but no one would be surprised about whatever he said. this would be because, of course, of his celebrated and widely reported off-the-field antics. they were rarely harmful and often a joy to read - be it the 48 hour drinking binge that the English and Australian players went on after the 2005 series ("a cigar" was his famous answer when being asked what exactly had he eaten during that 2 day period), and of course the infamous "pedalo" incident. Freddie is one of those rare, few athletes that acts and appears to be just like us, the ordinary fans, just touched with a skill for the dazzling and inspired that do indeed dazzle an inspire us all.
in interviews Freddie seemes genuinely unaware of just how admired and loved he is across the board. not since the days of Ian Botham has an English player been so warmly admired and applauded by fans across all Test playing nations.
hopefully the lad will move into commentary, or perhaps even better coaching and encouraging others to embrace and play the game just like he did. whereas all too many retrospectives of his career sound like premature obituaries, i think it's safe to say Freddie will be with us in person for quite some time. his legacy and contribution to the game, however, will remain with us for all time.
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1