Tuesday, 5 December 2006
1982 all over again
Flintoff is a great bowler and a devastating batsman on his day. He is an inspiration and a talisman.
He is, however, not a leader and not a Captain. Those are different skills and, like Botham before him, Flintoff does not possess them. He must be replaced immediately with Strauss and ultimately Vaughan.
Flintoff’s ‘shock and awe’ cricket is a weapon to be deployed, it is not a strategy that wins games. Brilliant individual play can turn and win games but only when it is deployed within a thought through strategy. It is the thinking that is missing and consequently individual brilliance is worthless.
One wonders when England will ever realise that individual brilliance does NOT equal automatic Captaincy. It is a national disease that we promote the best player on the team. I mean you only have to look across to Mr Beckham to see what I mean. For generations we coached and cultured leadership as crucially as sporting skills themselves and often carried a moderate player as Captain simply because his skills were as fundamental to the team make up as batting and bowling – Mike Brierley being the obvious example.
Flintoff came into this series with a fearsome reputation, but placed in an invidious position by the Sport’s board. He is on the brink of disaster, both personal and national.
He has to understand that the hardest decision is the one which will save his team and himself. He must throw off the shackles of leadership, return to the talismanic position he always enjoyed and put the Aussies to the sword.
Just make him watch the story of 1982. For Botham read Flintoff. For Brierley read Vaughan and for Bob Willis, read Harmison. We are now in the crucial gap between 2nd and 3rd tests, when in 1982 Botham was released to savage the Aussies and restore his reputation. Brierley managed him perfectly and carried Willis forward too, giving him the opportunity to sock it to his critics also.
This can still be his Ashes, but not if he persists, misguided by the belief that he must press on in a role that he cannot perform and which is slowly suffocating his massive talent.
Vaughan must play. Fit or not, a team around him (even at number 11!) can fight back.