x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Freelancer Flintoff pulls down shutters without a play

Strauss, the England captain, pays tribute to retiring all-rounder, who now lives in Dubai and had planned to carry on playing as a one-day specialist.

England have lost the services of the "ultimate impact cricketer", according to Andrew Strauss, their captain, after Andrew Flintoff confirmed his retirement from all forms of cricket yesterday. Flintoff, the all-rounder who has not played since the 2009 Ashes finale at The Oval in London, announced in a statement that he had "no alternative" but to give up the game because of a chronic knee injury. "The decision to end my career came [on Wednesday] after consultation with medical advisers," the 32-year-old said.

"I was told that the problems I have been trying to overcome in rehab for the last year following the latest in a series of operations would not recover sufficiently to allow a comeback. Having been told that my body would no longer stand up to the rigours of cricket, I had no alternative but to retire. "I will now be taking a break before deciding which future direction to take." Flintoff, who now lives in Dubai and has been hired as a "sports ambassador" for the emirate, had planned to carry on playing as a one-day specialist, after undergoing arthroscopy and micro-fracture surgery to his right knee in 2009.

He remained optimistic as recently as three weeks ago, when he said he hoped to play for Queensland in Australia's Twenty20 Big Bash in January, and was even planning further into the future. "More important is Lancashire [his home English county] next year," he told Sky Sports. The powerful Lancastrian had been expecting to travel the world playing as a hired hand in lucrative T20 tournaments. However, the man who first coined the phrase "freelance cricketer" never actually got back on to the field after he first used the term.

Ironically, given the absence of their pre-eminent one-day player, England's limited-overs fortunes have moved on apace without him. They won the World T20 title in the West Indies earlier this year, and the 50-over side have now reached No 2 in the International Cricket Council rankings. However, Strauss believes Flintoff's retirement is still a major loss to the game. "The impact he has had on English cricket has been immense," Strauss was quoted as saying at yesterday's captain's press conference ahead of today's one-day international match against Pakistan.

"[England's 2005 Ashes victory] was his zenith. But he was always the ultimate impact cricketer, somebody who on so many occasions stepped up to the plate. "He would put his body on the line on flat wickets when other bowlers were maybe starting to struggle. Because of the way he bowled, and what he put into it, it was probably not as easy for him to get seven-fors and eight-fors. "But if you talked to other players around the world, they would always say Andrew was one of the bowlers they least wanted to face - because he could be so hostile.

"We are all striving to gain the respect of our peers. Andrew certainly did that." Flintoff's injury problems stemmed from the hefty workload he was always too willing to bear, as Strauss suggested. For example, when he was captain of England's Test side in 2006, he bowled himself for an exhaustive 51 overs in the last innings in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to force a win over Sri Lanka. Not longer after, the all-rounder was forced to undergo surgery on his ankle. Graeme Swann, the England off-spinner, echoed Strauss's words. "It is a shame because any team with [Flintoff] in is a better side for it and it is a shame for everyone involved with English cricket," he was quoted as saying yesterday. "He changed the face of cricket in England because he is the first real celebrity we've had for a while." @Email:pradley@thenational.ae

The England player will be remembered for his brilliance but setbacks as well: Highs: 1998 Dismisses Jacques Kallis, South Africa's legend, on Test debut at Trent Bridge. 1999 Scores fifty in one-day international (ODI) debut against Pakistan in Sharjah. 2002 Scores first Test century - 137 against New Zealand at Christchurch. 2005 Man of the series for performances with bat and ball in the Ashes. Scores 402 runs at an average of more than 40, as well as taking 24 wickets. Later named ICC Cricketer of the Year, alongside Kallis. 2006 Captains his country for the first time in India. 2009 Picks up his first hat-trick, against West Indies in St Lucia, in his last one-day international for England. 2009 Signs for IPL side the Chennai Super Kings, becoming the most expensive player in world cricket, for US$1.55 million (Dh5.69m). 2009 Helps England regain the Ashes, with a five-for at Lord's at The Oval. Lows 1999 Forced to return from England's tour of South Africa after breaking a foot. 2002 Undergoes hernia operation; dismissed for a pair against India at Headingley. 2005 Flies home from South Africa, requiring an operation on his left ankle. 2007 Stripped of England vice-captaincy, after falling off a pedalo while drunk at the World Cup in West Indies. 2009 Returns home early from IPL, needing surgery on a torn miniscus on his right knee. * Compiled by John Trotter