Retired England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff has revealed that he didn’t want to play the Test series in India after last year’s Mumbai terror attacks but was forced to come by his home Board, which was “scared” of offending the cash-rich BCCI.
In his autobiography Ashes to Ashes, excerpts of which have come out in the Daily Mail, Flintoff has lashed out at the England and Wales Cricket Board for letting the players down.
England were playing a One-day series when terrorists carried out attacks in Mumbai, prompting the visitors to leave the series and return home. The final two ODIs of the seven-match series were not played.
The English returned for the two-Test series after a few weeks but not before many a brainstorming sessions over the security situation in India.
Flintoff said he and some others were against resuming the tour but were pressurised into agreeing by the ECB.
“The ECB told us about the money they would lose by not playing the Test series and they emphasised the impact that would have on cricket in England, on county cricket and grassroots cricket. Basically they were telling us that if we went home some lad in Preston might not be able to play cricket,” Flintoff writes in the book.
“From the word go I thought that trying to put that sort of pressure on us was wrong. The ECB’s desire to forge closer links with the Board of Control for Cricket in India had been widely publicised.
“The Indian organisation had become very powerful with the success of the IPL and the launch of the Champions League Twenty 20 tournaments. It was also an open secret that the ECB wanted to get the Indian players over for their own Twenty20 tournament and I got the impression they were frightened to death of jeopardising that,” he added.
Flintoff further said that he “asked them (the ECB) outright whether this was about money and they denied it, but I wasn’t convinced then and nothing since has persuaded me otherwise.”
The all-rounder, who has turned freelancer after refusing an ECB incremental contract, revealed “overriding feeling” among the players was in favour of going home.
Flintoff said then skipper Kevin Pietersen was eager to play the series and the relations between the two also soured to an extent as a result of that.
“Kevin was very keen to play the Tests but some of the lads were against it and they gave their reasons. At that stage most of the lads didn’t want to come back. Stories about terrorists targeting Westerners didn’t help. A few of the lads were genuinely scared,” he recalled.
“Peter Moores (then England coach) asked me to ring Kev, which I did, but the conversation was a bit strained. Kev said a lot of the lads had agreed to go back and asked me why I wouldn’t do the same,” he said.
The English team stayed in UAE for a training camp before coming back for the series and Flintoff said it was here that the ECB stepped up the pressure after a round of meetings.
“About six of us were left in the room and we were being pressed for a decision. I told them I couldn’t give them one.
They had to give me some time to digest what we’d just been told.
“We knew there would be a fall-out from the press and I’d be putting my career on the line, not to mention an IPL contract. But finances didn’t come into it. It was important I made the right decision,” he said.
“I felt as though I’d lost. I was being backed into doing something I didn’t want to do. Back in the meeting room I told everyone that I was agreeing to go back for my teammates.
Flintoff also lambasted the ECB for agreeing to the Stanford USD 20 million winner-takes-all Twenty20 match organised by Texan billionaire Allen Stanford, who is now facing charges of fraud.
“All the talk about England helping the development of West Indies cricket was absolute rubbish. We should have come out and said that we were there as mercenaries, playing for money. It was nothing to do with playing for England or helping Caribbean cricket,” he said.
“The sole purpose was to play one Twenty20 match for USD 20m. I struggled with that concept and I think most of the lads felt the same. I don’t play for England for money and the whole Stanford concept didn’t excite me,” he added.