England allrounder Andrew Flintoff has announced that he will retire from Test cricket after the current Ashes series. In a trend that may become more familiar in years to come he has made himself available to still play in ODI and T20 cricket. It seems modern cricket may be no place for allrounders.
Flintoff has struggled with various injuries throughout his career, and while the timing of his announcement may be a shock, the decision perhaps is not. Since the defining moment of his career, the Ashes triumph of 2005, Freddy has missed 25 of Englands last 48 Test matches and has spent the better part of 2 of the last 4 years in rehabilitation for various injuries. His body just wasn’t up to it. While many may feel that Flintoff has been a great player during his international career the stats don’t do that theory much justice. Since 2005 Flintoff has averaged 28, without a 100, with the bat and 34 with the ball, with no five wicket hauls – hardly the stuff of legend. There is no denying the talent and ability of the player, but the work load he has been forced to handle has proved to big a burden, and his body has had enough.
A few years ago players were moaning about too much cricket. Then the T20 was born, and with it the likes of the IPL and its millions, the T20 World Cup, and domestic T20 competitions. There is now more cricket than ever. Yet the money on offer for the shortest form of the game means that players will still make themselves available for T20 and Test cricket will feel the pinch. The amount of cricket played, the stress, strain, and work load means that true Test allrounders are a dying breed, and some, like New Zealands Jacob Oram, have predicted that it will become impossible to be a Test allrounder in the very near future.
A look at Test teams around the world seems to suggest that Oram may be correct. With Flintoff now retiring how many true allrounders are there? Australia’s Shane Watson and New Zealands Jacob Oram have been spending as much time as Flintoff out injured. South Africa’s Albie Morkel has only just made his debut in their last Test played. Shakib Al-Hasan of Bangladesh and Shahid Afridi of Pakistan are both allrounders, but spinners have less mileage on them then fast bowlers. Perhaps this is the future of Test allrounders – all spin and no pace.
Mitchell Johnson of Australia has shown enough ability with the bat to suggest that he could develop into an all rounder but the more likely scenario is that Australia would like to keep him as a bowling all rounder, batting at number 8, just as South African managed the dual talents of Shaun Pollock. The South African’s may look to use the emerging potential of Wayne Parnell in the same manner.
The South African Test team of the mid to late 90’s and early 2000’s possessed the all round abilities of Pollock, Kallis and Klusner, and at times Boje. Those were times without T20 cricket and perhaps we may never see the likes of that team again. Kallis is the only one left of that bunch and like any true legend, and all rounder, has modified his game to bring success to T20 cricket, but how long he is able to play all three formats is up for debate.
It seems that the modern game will see more and more players retiring from the longer format earlier than usual, and becoming ODI and T20 specialists. Will the all rounder survive?