don’t help the knees.
So yesterday Fred announced he won’t have to slog his body round a test ground for days on end as England struggle to get a side out on a dead pitch.
It’s a funny situation now as he hopes to go on a grand farewell tour of the country, with the aim of repeating the moment of his greatest success, where does he sit?
Look at the numbers on paper, as they stand right now, and they aren’t that great. Just under 32 with the bat and just over the same number with the ball for his 218 wickets, with just 2 five wicket hauls from 75 tests. Now he’s always talked of as the Ian Botham of his time, something they’ve been desperately being searching for since the turn of the 90s. Well the batting average are roughly the same, Fred two runs to the worse, with hundreds 5 to 14. Bowling, well Botham took his 383 wickets at a near four run better average and more impressively 27 five wicket games, sixth most in the game.
Those figures were hugely improved in his golden period from 2003 to the end of that Ashes series in ’05, when his batting topped 40 and the bowling average was below 29 during the period. He’d got in shaped, had been told some home truths and buckled down and become a more intimidating bowler. And that final series proved a time that will be linked with him much in the way ’81 is link with his aforementioned predecessor.
It’s not the only thing that linked the pair, trouble and not being the best of captains are another couple.
Fredallo, being late, missing busses, hungover in the nets, Flintoff didn’t do himself too many favours at times, being stripped of the vice-captaincy. Leadership didn’t go too well either, that disastrous last trip down under for the ’06/’07 Ashes, when he shouldn’t really have been given the job, it was too much with too much expected after ’05.
So on paper it’s not a great test career, much as Botham’s doesn’t really match up to some of the greats. But again both of them share something, the lift they gave both their teammates and the crowd. There’s no one in the current side that gets the crowd up when handed the ball the way Fred does, yes Monty gets cheers in an ironic, cult hero, will he have a prat fall way, Fred gets them because they expect the batsmen to get roughed up and then lose their wicket. There’s excitement when Pietersen comes into bat but it isn’t out of any love for the player, they just know something might happen, with Fred they’re willing it to, it’s a supporter appreciation Pietersen can only dream of. Fred caused problems for his captains, they still love him in the dressing room, Pietersen they can take and leave.
For all the off field dramas, once he’d got his head straight you knew once he crossed the boundary he’d give everything for his country, unlike so many that think now they’ve made it they don’t really have to bother – yes you Steve Harmison.
So after this test summer is over he’s off to slog what’s left of his knees and ankles for a bit of financial gain in the one day game. Can’t blame him the amount of injections he’s had in those joints over the last few years – didn’t he have three on Monday? – suggest it could be a tough, painful old age took look back over well at least one glorious summer what chance it being two?