Big Bash the­ory

Why Fred­die Flintoff reck­ons T20 is the premier form of cricket

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE - By DEB­BIE SCHIPP ED­I­TOR Deb­bie Schipp RE­VIEWS Deb­bie Schipp, Colin Vick­ery, An­drew Fen­ton, Holly Byrnes, Neala John­son, Leigh Paatsch, Tif­fany Dunk, Shan­non Mol­loy COVER An­drew ‘Fred­die’ Flintoff for the KFC Big Bash COVER DE­SIGN Naomi Schmidt ADVERTISIN

FOR­MER English Test cricket cap­tain An­drew “Fred­die” Flintoff seems a mas­ter of rein­ven­tion – and a funny and some­times in­ad­ver­tent one at that.

A wild child in his play­ing days, reviled by Aus­tralian cricket fans sim­ply be­cause he was English, and at times also by his own coun­try­men – es­pe­cially when Eng­land was belted in the 2006-2007 Ashes white­wash – re­tire­ment has trans­formed Flintoff into a man of many hats.

Among them are cricket com­men­ta­tor, stand-up co­me­dian, au­thor, TV pan­elist, and win­ner of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! Aus­tralia. He’s es­chewed al­co­hol, wres­tled de­pres­sion, em­braced the gym and buried self-doubt.

Back to join cricket foes-turned-mates Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Damien Flem­ing and Mark Waugh in the Big Bash com­men­tary box, Flintoff reck­ons life is pretty sweet. If only Bondi Vet Chris Brown would call. Flintoff de­vel­oped a “bro­mance” with co-host Brown on his way to win­ning I’m A Celebrity ear­lier in the year, and with the same trade­mark hu­mour which saw non-cricket fans be­come en­tranced with him on the show, reck­ons now he’s back in Aus­tralia for cricket and The Project panel du­ties, he’s keen to reignite the friend­ship.

“He’s lovely. He’s just what you as­pire to be isn’t he? He’s at­trac­tive. He’s in­tel­li­gent. He’s witty… ish,” Flintoff dead­pans.

“We kept in con­tact for a lit­tle bit post- Celebrity, and now he’s sev­ered all ties. I think the re­strain­ing or­der came through (laughs) but maybe that only ap­plies on English soil – I’ll be test­ing it now I’m here.”

Flintoff was sur­prised by the Aus­tralian viewer re­ac­tion to him on I’m a Celebrity.

“I’d been asked to do I’m A Celebrity UK so many times and I’d said, ‘No chance’,” he says.

“But be­cause of the ex­pe­ri­ence I had dur­ing the Big Bash here last year, and the ap­proach to it I started con­tem­plat­ing it, and then my wife signed me up.

“I got on the plane, I didn’t know if I was making the right de­ci­sion. And then I got in there – Merv Hughes was one of the big rea­sons I did it – and I thought ‘I’ve got a chance here to spend four weeks with Merv. This is bril­liant’.

“He’s just one of the best blokes. Be­hind all the burp­ing and fart­ing and swear­ing, he has a heart of gold.”

Big Bash du­ties mean re­new­ing friend­ships with Gilchrist, Ponting and Co. in the com­men­tary box, surf­ing the wave of Big Bash’s pop­u­lar­ity.

“Al­though I played against th­ese guys, I’d never spent a lot of time with them,” he says.

“Work­ing with Gilly is just fun. We can get stuck into each other and noth­ing’s too se­ri­ous.

“Ricky, as well, is amaz­ing. I had an im­pres­sion of him play­ing that he was a bit gnarly and he used to have a go at me and swear at me and shout at me. “Away from it all, he’s just a great bloke.” Flintoff, 38, was among the scep­tics when the shorter version of cricket was in­tro­duced to the masses.

“I re­mem­ber at a Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion meet­ing they said, ‘We’re go­ing to be play­ing Twenty20 cricket’ and we were like, ‘Really, we have to travel up and down the coun­try for 20 overs hav­ing a thrash? This is point­less’,” he says.

“Each year it be­came more and more com­pet­i­tive. You see what it is now – I’m not say­ing it be­cause I work on it – I gen­uinely think the Big Bash is the premier com­pe­ti­tion.

“Play­ers enjoy it as much as the spec­ta­tors. In Eng­land if you’re play­ing county cricket in front of three men and a dog for four days try­ing your best and it’s cold and windy, then all of a sud­den you are play­ing in front of 25,000 un­der flood­lights – that’s why you play sport.

“A lot of sports­men will talk down the ego boost of that, and that’s ab­so­lute non­sense. You want to per­form in front of a crowd. For me that was the best times – when you play in front of a packed house and you hear the crowd – that’s amaz­ing.”

KFC BIG BASH LEAGUE

THURS­DAY, FRI­DAY AND SATUR­DAY, 7.30PM, TEN

CON­VERTED: An­drew “Fred­die” Flintoff will be in Aus­tralia this sum­mer call­ing the Big Bash League; Top right, Flintoff and Bondi Vet Chris Brown on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! Aus­tralia.

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