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Flintoff: Give counties the praise
AS England prepare themselves for a match which could install them as the world’s leading nation in Test cricket, Andrew Flintoff has called on pundits to give the county circuit the credit it deserves.
During the late 1990s when England went from series defeat to series defeat, the domestic game was heavily criticise for failing to produce the players capable of making it in the international arena.
Yet as many so-called experts calling Andrew Strauss’ team one the best that we’ve ever produced, those same people have yet to praise our county game.
Strauss, Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, Jimmy Anderson et al have not just been plucked from thin air. No, they have all come through the county system, which former England star Flintoff (inset) quite rightly says gets a bad rap.
But the retired all-rounder says the cricitism comes from players who couldn’t master the format of the sport he struggled to.
“County cricket gets a bad rap from time to time,” said Flintoff. “Especially from ex-England players who never mastered the game.
“County cricket was something that I found very tough, the volume of cricket and the players that you were playing against.
“Of course, none of us really mastered it. The closest to do it was Graeme Hick, he scored hundred after hundred, he was a fine player.”
Worcestershire director of cricket Steve Rhodes has always believed that the domestic game is there to produce future England players.
Flintoff feels that it is a tough way to learn, yet that is partly the reason to why England’s stock in the Test arena has steadily risen.
Should England beat India at Edgbaston this week, Strauss’ side would leapfrog the visitors into the world number one spot and take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the four-match series.
“It is a tough way to learn is county cricket,” the 33-year-old said.
“It’s funny because in the 1990s when England were doing bad, they blamed county cricket.
“Now England are the best team in the world let’s see if these same people now complement county cricket for producing some fine cricketers — I’ve not seen it so far!”
Flintoff also says that the domestic game has improved so much over the years that it has become extremely tough for players such as Moeen Ali, who he rated as a fine player, to force their way into the reckoning as there are so many good players already in the minds of the selectors.
“Getting into the England side now is so hard,” he said.
“There are so many good players up and down the country.
“There are 30 players who could walk into that side — that shows just how strong that side is.”