Tue, Jan 03, 2012 - Page 18 News List

Flintoff reveals mental strain of leading England

AFP, London

Andrew Flintoff has spoken of the emotional anguish he experienced leading England during their Ashes thrashing in Australia five years ago and how he wanted to retire at the subsequent World Cup.

The former all-rounder talked about his personal struggles and those of other leading sportsmen, including some of his teammates, in a BBC program entitled Freddie Flintoff: Hidden Side Of Sport, scheduled to be broadcast on Jan. 11.

Flintoff was England’s captain when they were whitewashed 5-0 by hosts Australia in the 2006-2007 Ashes, a series where they surrendered their grip on the urn before Christmas.

“I was having a quiet drink with my dad Colin on Christmas Eve 2006 and as we made our way home I started crying my eyes out,” Flintoff said, in an extract from the program quoted on the Daily Mail Web site on Sunday.

“I told him I’d tried my best, but that I couldn’t do it any more, I couldn’t keep playing. We talked and, of course, I dusted myself down and carried on, but I was never the same player again,” said Flintoff, who in 2009 retired from Test cricket with a batting average of 31 and bowling mark of 32 — figures many pundits felt failed to reflect his immense natural talent.

“I was captain of England and financially successful. Yet instead of walking out confidently to face Australia in one of the world’s biggest sporting events, I didn’t want to get out of bed, never mind face people,” he said.

It later emerged Flintoff had been drinking so heavily at one point in Australia he was ordered away from a practice session by then-England coach Duncan Fletcher.

Further alcohol-related problems for the now 34-year-old Flintoff ensued at the World Cup in the Caribbean, where he took a drunken pedalo trip near England’s hotel in St Lucia.

It was an incident that cost Flintoff the England vice captain role.

“The whole time I was on the field and throughout that World Cup, all I could think about was that I wanted to retire,” Flintoff said. “I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I knew when I got back to my room I couldn’t shut off, which is why I started having a drink. It got to the stage where I was probably drinking more than I should.”

“All I wanted was for the doctor to tell me what was wrong, but no one suggested it was depression,” added Flintoff, a key figure in England’s 2005 and 2009 Ashes triumphs.

Fast bowler Stephen Harmison, a close friend of Flintoff, who at one stage in his career admitted to struggling with “homesickness,” said in the program he too had suffered from depression.

“At one point I was the No. 1 bowler in the world — yet I was struggling inside,” Harmison said.

Former England batsman Marcus Trescothick’s international career was ended by a stress-related illness that made it all but impossible for the opener to tour, even though he continues to play for Somerset.

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