When Shell wanted an ambassador to help promote their new FuelSave range, Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff was the natural choice. There’s always been a connection between cricket, automobiles and people nicknamed Fred: The Flintstones’ car looks exactly like a cricket pitch roller.
Fortunately, today’s automobiles are rather more comfortable than the ‘Flintmobile’. Petrol technology is also improving – although Shell still have some way to go before they match the invisible elixir that powered the Flintstones’ car.
Shell invited us along to their promotional event at the Daytona Sandown Park Racetrack in Esher this week, where Andrew Flintoff gave us some fuel saving driving tips, and (more relevantly to us) answered some questions about cricket too.
On arrival we discovered he knows a thing or two about driving efficiently as well as winning games for England. To demonstrate, he drove us around the track a few times and showed us how much fuel we could save (a litre of fuel per tank, say Shell).
After a quick photo op and the odd autograph, we finally got to pick Andrew’s brains about a number of cricketing issues. For example, we asked him whether he thinks England should pick four or five bowlers in test cricket.
We also wondered whether he might appear on Strictly Come Dancing, like his former teammates Darren Gough and Mark Ramprakash. His answer was unequivocal.
Q: When are you going to play cricket again?
Andrew: Soon. I’m going to play for Lancashire seconds next week as a batsman. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll slowly ease my way back into bowling after that. Hopefully I’ll manage to keep myself fit and play in the World Cup early next year.
Q: Would you like to play in next year’s IPL?
A: Definitely … if I get a contract. Who wouldn’t? When I played in the IPL a while ago it was held in South Africa. I really want to play in India. Nothing compares to playing over there. The Indian crowds are amazing. The atmosphere is incredible.
Q: How do you handle the pressure of playing for England?
A: I actually find there’s more pressure playing for Lancashire. The IPL is also really tough – especially as everyone knows how much you’re being paid!
Q: Do you think that England should be playing four bowlers or five in test matches?
A: All our recent success has come with five bowlers, so that’s my preference. It makes it so much easier on the bowlers. You can hunt as a pack and give absolutely everything knowing you’ve got other bowlers to support you. It’s not always the guy with the wickets who should get the praise. If one of the others can hold down an end, like Ashley Giles did in 2005, it’s just as important for the team. The workload needs to be shared if you want your attack firing on all cylinders.
Q: If England play five bowlers, we’ll need to find another all-rounder like yourself. Who can fill that role?
It worked in 2005 because we had myself at six and Geraint [Jones] at seven. We were both batting all-rounders who scored valuable runs. Matt Prior still averages 40 in tests, so he can do it. We also have lots of bowlers who can bat well like Graeme [Swann] and Stuart [Broad] too. Even Jimmy [Anderson] can hold a bat now. Even Monty too! [laughs]His cover-drive is classic!
Q: But who is the most likely number seven batsman?
The player who could fill my old role is Tim Bresnan. I know from playing in Roses matches that he’s a tough competitor. He has a very good temperament, his batting has impressed me, and he bowls quicker than people think … certainly when I’ve faced him.
Q: Who is the greatest spin bowler – Shane Warne or Muttiah Muralitharan?
That’s tough! From my perspective I’d say Murali. When I played against Warney he could only bowl leg breaks and the slider due to his shoulder. Murali was a nightmare though. He has so much variation. I remember facing him in the nets at Old Trafford. He tied me in knots. When I played against him for England he bowled completely new deliveries at me. Amazing.
Q: Who is the best coach you’ve ever had?
Again it’s tough. Maybe Peter Moores … he’s very good. Actually, I’m going to say David Lloyd. Bumble was brilliant to work with.
Q: Finally, is there any chance we’ll see you on Strictly Come Dancing one day?
No. No. No way! (Andrew seemed quite adamant on this point).
There was so much more I wanted to ask Freddy – like what he really said to Brett Lee in that famous photo at the end of the Edgbaston Test – but I was ushered away by time conscious Shell officials.
As I walked away it struck me that the Flintoff we see on TV is the real Andrew Flintoff. There’s nothing pretentious about him whatsoever. Talking to him was like being teleported into an episode of Sky’s A League of Their Own. What you see is what you get.
Perhaps that’s why Freddie’s the nation’s favourite cricketer. It was good to meet you Andrew. Get yourself fit and win us that World Cup!
Andrew Flintoff was appearing on behalf of Shell Fuelsave. More information at www.shell.co.uk