Speaking on the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast, Andrew Flintoff opened up on his motivations for playing through pain and injury during the 2009 Ashes, a decision which he says cost him “the last three years” of his career.
“I was on this crusade to win the Ashes back,” he said. “2009 became so important because of what happened in 2006/07. I genuinely think that playing in that 2009 series for those four weeks cost me the last three years of my career. I couldn’t not play in that series because of the scars of everything I’d been through previously. I had to perform, I had to win, and it cost me in the end.”
Flintoff was England captain during the 06/07 series. He had been named Player of the Series in the 2005 Ashes series, which England won in unforgettable fashion to gain possession of the urn for the first time in 18 years. Back down under, Australia hit back in vengeful style, sealing a 5-0 whitewash. Flintoff’s agony on that tour was compounded by a feeling of powerlessness over being able to change the outcome and by a lack of confidants in the dressing room.
“Genuinely, and I’ve dissected it and given myself a hard time about it and I will until the day I die, I did not know what to do,” he said. “My most valuable two players, Marcus [Trescothick] went home, Steve [Harimson], with all due respect, not really at the races. I wanted him in my team, even after that first ball. I was fighting for him to be in it because I just wanted someone next to me who I could trust with everything.
“Fine, you might not be bowling the best you can but I know you’re trying your nuts off and I needed that. I didn’t feel I had anywhere to go. There was no one. Everyone was going into their groups and looking after themselves. I isolated myself, I drank a bit too much at times. I had a team that couldn’t compete with Australia. I genuinely, I wrack my brains, I don’t know what I could have done.”
Barring a short comeback stint in T20 cricket in 2014, the final game of the ’09 Ashes at The Oval was Flintoff’s last in professional cricket, the all-rounder retiring at the age of 31. No longer captain, he played an important role in helping England regain the urn, taking a five-wicket haul at Lord’s to take England 1-0 up in the series, and famously running out Ponting in the final innings of the series just as Australia were suggesting they could make a fist of chasing 546 to win the series.