Big Bash theory
Why Freddie Flintoff reckons T20 is the premier form of cricket
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.