Stokes Or Flintoff?

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As Ben Stokes continues to rise in stature, his numbers are matching and surpassing another allrounder in Andrew Flintoff. But it’s unfair to compare them on numbers alone. 

Measuring Ben Stokes against Andrew Flintoff’s success is not an outrageous thing to do, either due to their playing style, or charismatic, occasionally hot-headed, nature.

But when you compare their numbers alone, Ben Stokes has already reached Flintoff’s level. 

Over the course of Flintoff’s 79-Test match career, he struck five centuries and took three five wicket hauls. Ben Stokes has already reached these feats in 35 tests.

But does that mean Stokes is better? Not necessarily.

After the most recent Test match at the Oval against South Africa, Stokes was asked about emulating Flintoff. He said“I’m trying to produce certain moments in a game so it can swing our way but I am not trying to live up to anyone else’s reputation. I’m trying to do what I do and trying to keep putting in good performances.”

It’s undeniable that numbers show Stokes achieving more at a better rate, but it’s not just about numbers. There’s a reason why Stokes would talk of trying to ‘live up’ to Flintoff.

Everyone could see how good Flintoff was, but it never really translated in the record books. Regardless of that, given the option of having him or not, you’d take him every time. Why? Because he was a talisman. He didn’t take lots of five wicket halls, or convert enough fifties into tons, but he got out big players at crucial times and changed games. And he balanced a team – a very different team in a different era, in different playing conditions, and against arguably better oppositions.

Fred was part of Duncan Fletcher’s England, who battled a mighty South African side and defeated one of the best Australian teams in history. Who knows what Stokes would do if he had to face Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath? Would he have run down the pitch to Murali, like he does to Keshav Maharaj? I don’t think so. 

Whilst Flintoff was at the heart of a settled team, Stokes has had more opportunity, and necessity, to take responsibility. Stokes is part of a side which has been searching for a number of permanent positions in the top order.

This means that Stokes is not coming in to hit a nice cameo;  he’s one of England’s best batsman. And, let’s face it, by the end of Flintoff’s career he was batting at seven or eight. He was a bowling allrounder, and Stokes is a batting allrounder. 

Lastly, the game has changed considerably in recent times. Whether it’s the impact of T20 which has increased risk-taking, or DRS leading to wickets that would never have been given 10-years-ago, there are lots of variables. 

Whilst it’s disappointing that Flintoff’s numbers don’t represent how good he was, Stokes surpassing his statistical achievements don’t tell the whole story. 

Anyone who watched Flintoff knows he was a lot better than his record suggests. And anyone who wants to compare England best two all-rounders in recent times should remember who Stokes is looking up to. 

Jack Mendel 

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Jack Mendel

11 comments

  • I’d like to have seen Stokes captained by Vaughan…

    In any event, as Stokes is (one hopes) barely half way into his test career, it’s a little early to be judging him. One can hope that he’ll surpass Flintoff as a talisman, and that the statistics will take care of themselves.

  • Flintoff’s career statistics were also sullied by his poor start to his test career when he just an overweight biffer and a third-change bowler.

    If you took the first third of his career (26 of 79 tests), his average was 26.00 with the bat (2 hundreds) and at 49.95 with the ball (just 43-wickets and 0 5-fers).

    The latter two-thirds of his career his averages were 34.73 with the bat (3 hundreds) and 28.75 with the ball (183 wickets and 3 5-fers).

    It is the Flintoff of the last two thirds we remember as the great player, and he really was a truly great bowler at that time and a more than useful batsman.

    As the article states, Stokes is the better batsman by a distance, and Flintoff the better bowler by a similar distance.

    • Mark Butcher is another who’s overall statistics are misleading due to the poor start.

      Up to 2000 he has 27 matches and 1253 runs at 25.06 (2 hundreds).

      In his second incarnation, and kickstarted by that brilliant 173* at Headingley, he played 44 matches scoring 3035 at 41.01 with 6 hundreds. We’d kill for a player like that at first drop now!

      That was a great team with Tres, Vaughan, Butcher and Thorpe all at their best.

  • Flintoff and Stokes could well have played in the same side as Freddie batted behind the Keeper most of the time. In a lot of ways now it would be the choice between Flintoff or Woakes

    In his peek years from 2003-2005 Freddie was truly world class and was a key bowler for England after that. Injuries had caught up with him and he never stayed fit long enough to get into full rhythm of batting, there could be a debate about if being overweight and not doing enough fitness work contributed to this.

    I did find it terribly amusing when Vaughan was railing against the selectors for leaving out Jimmy against Pakistan by saying how he always got Freddie on the park, expect Freddie retired early and keeps saying how much he misses the game on comms. The dark side of Captain Vaughan

    • That is perhaps they key difference between them – Stokes looks far likelier to have a career where he performs at at or near his best for an extended period of time, and I think that must be taken into account when comparing the two.

  • What a player we would have had with Flintoff’s bowling and Stoke’s batting.
    Statistics don’t mean much here as Stokes is just starting out and Flintoff didn’t come into his own till he lost the weight later on in his career. At present I would rather have Stokes, as he can sustain attack better with bat and ball. I always felt Flintoff could be out at any time and his ability to rough up the worlds best batsmen came only fleetingly if memorably. Stokes is clearly not at that level with the ball yet, but I feel his batting is already superior.
    Sobers is the only all rounder who excelled with bat and ball to similar effect pretty much throughout his career, largely due to his flexibility with the ball. Even Botham, who had much of his initial success during the Packer era, was always more of a threat with the ball. His confidence and Intimidating personality was enough to trouble most batsmen before they got to the wicket.
    Stokes has that cussed aggressive streak that I felt Flintoff lacked, especially with the bat. Flintoff enjoyed and revelled in his success but didn’t intimidate to the same degree until late on in his career when his bowling came into its own.
    Watching Flintoff was like watching a gifted amateur, Stokes is more of an assassin. It will be interesting to see how his bowling develops.

  • Flintoff would be picked on his bowling alone, his batting was a bonus.

    Stoke would (almost) be picked on his batting alone, his bowling was a bonus.

    If Flintoff was a modern-day Botham, then Stokes is a modern-day Greig?

By Jack Mendel

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