Andrew Flintoff remained one of the top-ranked all-rounders of world cricket in almost all International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings    Getty Images
Andrew Flintoff remained one of the top-ranked all-rounders of world cricket in almost all International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings Getty Images

Andrew Freddie Flintoff, born December 6, 1977, is a former England captain and an all-rounder who played 79 Tests and 141 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) for the country between 1998 and 2009. Standing 6 ft 4 in, he was an integral part of the English team ever since he broke onto the scene. Throughout his injury-ravaged career, Flintoff remained one of the top-ranked all-rounders of world cricket in almost all International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings. The crowning moment in his career came when he played an instrumental role in England regaining the Ashes after a wait of 18 years in 2005. Injuries forced him to quit the game early; Tests in 2009 and all forms in 2010. Post-retirement he tried professional boxing, before returning back to play Twenty20 (T20) cricket for clubs and franchises. On his birthday, Chinmay Jawalekar looks at 25 facts from the life of the all-rounder, who had much more influence on the teams he played for than the statistics actually suggest.

1. Early days

Flintoff grew up in Preston in the middle of five council estates. His father Colin was a plumber and factory maintenance worker by profession, who worked for British Aerospace for 30 years making parts on the machines. He also captained the Dutton Forshaw second XI cricket team. Flintoff attended Greenlands County Primary School and Ribbleton Hall High School (now City of Preston High School) where he performed well academically until he dropped out of school at 16 as he did not want to study any further. He then worked behind the record counter at Woolworths.

2. Chess

Flintoff was also a keen chess player and even played for his County as a kid. He got inclined towards the game at school, where a school teacher used-to run a chess club. He opened up the same way every game and played against people who were better than him, who could plan six, seven, eight moves in advance. By his own admission, he didn t have that ability but he was a bit of a maverick so they couldn t really second-guess what he was going to do.

3. Played cricket against men since he was ten

As a boy, he played cricket for the Lancashire Schools under-11s and under-15s teams. He then played for over two years for the England under-19 team.

4. Mentor

Flintoff s father had a great influence on him and was his first and foremost mentor. Later on, various coaches, especially Jim Kenyon, changed him from a schoolboy cricketer to an adult one.

5. Freddie

An old cricket coach of Flintoff started calling him Fred, as his surname resembled that of Fred Flinstone from the iconic American TV series The Flinstones. Soon Fred became Freddie.

6. First-Class debut

Flintoff made his First-Class debut for Lancashire against Hampshire at the age of 18 in August 1995. Playing under Pakistan great Wasim Akram s captaincy, Flintoff bowled 11 wicket-less overs in the match and scored 7 and 0 in the match. In both the innings, he was dismissed by former Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak.

7. Blazing call for a Test debut

Flintoff hit 61 off 24 balls for Lancashire against Surrey at Old Trafford. His smashing knock, that included 34 off an Alex Tudor over, helped his team chase down 250 set by Surrey in 44.1 overs. The innings was a particularly timely one, as it came a fortnight before the Old Trafford Test against South Africa. His Lancashire captain Akram had famously said then that Flintoff would already be playing Tests had he been born in Pakistan.

8. Not bad for a fat lad

After mediocre Test and ODI debuts, the focus soon shifted on Flintoff s weight. He faced consistent criticism for his weight as his lean patch continued. Just around that time, he hit a match-winning 42 not out against Zimbabwe in a low-scoring ODI at Old Trafford in the year 2000, earning him the Man-of-the-Match award. While receiving the award, Flintoff said the famous line, “Not bad for a fat lad.”

9. Shirtless hero

In February 2002, during the last match of the six-match ODI series against India, Flintoff scored 50-ball 40 and then delivered the last over of the match with India needing 11 to win. He did not allow India to score the runs and bowled them out 6 runs short of the target and also levelled the series for his team, after which, in jubilation, he removed his shirt and ran across the field.

India s then captain Sourav Ganguly, whose 80 runs in the match went in vain, was livid after the loss. He though had the last laugh as merely six months later, he got an opportunity to give Flintoff a fitting reply when India beat England in the final of the Natwest Trophy in style. As India chased down 325 runs, an ecstatic Ganguly also removed his shirt and waved from the balcony of the Lord s ground after India s win. Co-incidentally, he scored a fifty in this game too and once again the final over was bowled by Flintoff.

10. Ashes 2005

Flintoff made his biggest impact for England in the summer of 2005, when he played a major role in regaining the Ashes from Australia after 18 long years. The closely-fought series went England s way by 2-1 margin and Flintoff earned Man-of-the-Series award for his 402 runs and 24 wickets the only occasion in the history of Ashes when an Englishman scored over 400 runs and took more than 20 wickets.

His 62-ball 68 and wickets of Justin Langer and Ricky Ponting in one over at Edgbaston swung the momentum England’s way. He also displayed true sportsmanship by commiserating with Brett Lee after the nail-biting finish when his team won by just 2 runs.

11. Altercation with Yuvraj Singh that produced six sixes in an over

During the inaugural ICC World T20 in 2007, India and England were in the middle of an intense battle when Flintoff had an ugly altercation with Yuvraj Singh just before the beginning of a Stuart Broad over. The heated exchange of words perhaps provoked Yuvraj, who smacked the record six sixes in that Borad over.

12. Fredalo

During the 2007 World Cup, following England’s defeat against New Zealand in St Lucia, Flintoff got drunk with some of his team mates and nearly drowned when the boat carrying them capsized. He has since claimed that he was attempting to sail home in a pedalo, thus giving the incident a name Fredalo . In a 2014 episode of 8 out of 10 cats, he stated that he awoke on a beach – the worst place he had ever slept. The aftermath of that incident was Flintoff lost his position as vice-captain and was fined, but remained as a member of the team. He later publicly apologises, saying, “As you can imagine, I am ashamed. I’ve let people down. The team’s been weakened because I was not available for selection, and I’ve let down my family, friends and the public back home. So it’s been a horrible few days. I’m so sorry for what I’ve done. It’s affected a lot of people.”

13. Hat-trick in his last ODI

In April 2009, Flintoff muscled his way through the West Indian lower order and finished with 5 wickets for 19 runs in the fifth game in St Lucia. Having picked two top order wickets, he returned to pick up Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul and Sulieman Benn in successive deliveries to seal England the series and his first hat-trick. Ironically, it remains his last ODI played for England.

14. Million-dollar man

His ODI hat-trick was a particularly timely one as merely a week later, he laughed all the way to the bank following the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction. Along with England team-mate Kevin Pietersen, Flintoff became the joint most-expensive player in the world as he was signed by the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) for US$ 1.55 million. Pietersen went to the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).

15. Injuries and retirement

Injuries remained an integral part of his career. Persistent ankle and knee problems made him take the decision to retire from Test cricket at the end of Ashes 2009. Another knee operation shortly after the final Test of the same series sidelined him for another year and finally in 2010, Flintoff retired from all forms of professional cricket.

16. First Freelancer

After retiring from Tests, Flintoff declined a contract with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and made his intentions clear of playing in the T20 leagues across the world. In doing so, he was the first cricketer who turned freelancer.

17. Anecdote

Flintoff was once run out while batting as he had a Viagra overdose. He himself revealed the incident in an interview with The Daily Mail, saying, “It started with an article my ex sold to the News of the World. It wasn t very complimentary about my ‘performance’, if you get my meaning. So I decided I had to put that myth to bed even though I was in the middle of a Test match. I took three Viagra one night and didn t realise how long they lasted. Trying to bat the next day in that state was not easy. I was run out, simply because I couldn t move. I could only hop. It wasn t worth it, either. Complete waste of time.”

18. Sachin Tendulkar fan

Flintoff is a self-confessed Sachin Tendulkar fan. In an interview with Esquire, Flintoff said, When I played against Sachin [Tendulkar], it wasn t a case of just wanting to get him out; I wanted him to walk away thinking I was a good cricketer. I ve said hello to him but I ve never engaged with him in conversation and in some ways I don t want to because I hold him in such high esteem. I don t know what I d say. He s amazing.

19. The Andrew Flintoff Cricket Academy

He established The Andrew Flintoff Cricket Academy in 2008 and claims that by the end of 2015; over 150 Academies will have hosted nearly 10,000 boys and girls at over 50 venues nationwide and abroad. He feels that cricket has given him so much, and he wants to pass on his passion of the game to as many youngsters as he can.

20. Professional boxing

Post-retirement, Flintoff tried hands at professional boxing. He got a boxing licence from the Boxing Board of Control and made his pro-debut on November 30, 2012 against Richard Dawson. He won the match that happens to be Flintoff s only professional boxing appearance till date.

21. Brief comeback

In May 2014, Flintoff came out of retirement to play twenty20 matches for his former club Lancashire. He almost won the T20 blast tournament for his team when in the final of the competition; he dismissed Ian Bell with the ball and hit two sixes in the penultimate over as Lancashire fell just short against Birmingham Bears. Later that year, he signed up with Brisbane heat in the Big Bash League (BBL) and played one full season, without making much of an impact and thus pulling down the curtains on his career for good.

22. Coach

In 2009, while Flintoff was undergoing a recovery and rehabilitation programme from his injury at the Dubai Sports City complex, he decided to use his time away from the treatment room to help with the development of the UAE’s leading cricketers. A mutual partnership was agreed between Dubai Sports City and Flintoff wherein he could use their gym and facilities as a base for his rehabilitation while in return, he would be carrying out some coaching for the UAE national team over the next six months.

23. Awards and accolades

Flintoff has earned numerous awards for his cricketing achievements. The most special one came in 2005, when he was given the Member of British Order (MBE). Other notable awards include: PCA Player of the Year in 2005, BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2005, ICC Player of the Year in 2005, ICC One-Day Player of the Year in 2004, PCA Player of the Year in 2004, Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2004, Walter Lawrence Trophy in 1999 and NBC Denis Compton Award in 1997 among others.

24. Beyond cricket and boxing

Flintoff has been a colourful personality both on and off the field. In March 2010, he became a team captain on the Sky1 television sports panel show A League of Their Own, hosted by James Corden. In December 2010, he guest commentated during a few matches in the 2011 PDC World Darts Championship event. He returned to commentary during the 2012 World Matchplay. He has also hosted a radio show on BBC Radio Five Live on Monday nights.

In 2011, he was named as the latest brand ambassador for big men’s fashion brand Jacamo and was set to have his own range in 2012. In early 2011 he also became the face of Morrisons supermarkets.

Flintoff has suffered from depression and thus produced a documentary entitled Freddie Flintoff: Hidden Side of Sport, about his and other sports stars’ suffering of clinical depression. He also became a judge on the ITV talent show Let’s Get Gold in 2012. In 2014, Flintoff made a cameo appearance in Sky TV series, Trollied.

Earlier this year, Flintoff entered the first Australian series of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, held in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Entering on Day 17 of the series, he was crowned “King of the Jungle” after winning the series on 15 March 2015 after spending 29 days in the jungle. Again earlier this year, he also showed off his butt by posting a nude image of himself through his Twitter account. The picture was reportedly to be used during the filming of his new Television (TV) show Flintoff: Lord of the Fries, which was to be broadcasted on the entertainment channel Sky1.

Flintoff has also written several books: Being Freddie, Freddie, Andrew Flintoff, My Life in Pictures and Ashes to Ashes.

25. Personal life

Flintoff now resides in Surrey with his wife, Rachael, and their three children, Holly, Corey and Rocky. His son Corey is already showing a fledgling interest in cricket. Earlier in 2009, Flintoff and Rachael began setting up the Andrew Flintoff Foundation, a fund to raise money for the physiotherapy unit at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)