| Andrew Flintoff
Calcutta: Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff, of the pedalo affair fame during this year’s World Cup, is actually a much changed man. On Wednesday night, he even stumped former India wicketkeeper Farokh Engineer!
“I couldn’t believe it when Freddie didn’t touch wine and said he’d been off every kind of liquor for at least eight weeks,” Engineer told The Telegraph on the morning-after.
The stumping-act occurred at The Players Bar and Restaurant (part-owned among others by Ernie Els, Michael Vaughan and Flintoff himself) in Cheshire. That’s where the duo hosted a Mumbai-based family, the highest bidders when Dinner with Freddie and Farokh was “auctioned” on England’s 2006 tour of India.
Flintoff’s wife Rachel was present at the dinner. Engineer’s family — wife Julie and daughter Roxanne — was there as well.
“That auction was part of Freddie’s Benefit Year and the Indian family, if I’m not wrong, bid £25,000. Besides the dinner, they’ve got seats for Thursday’s ODI and are being looked after by the Benefit committee,” Engineer pointed out.
According to Engineer, the Benefit Year raised around £4 million for one of the truly outstanding allrounders of the present times. One-fourth of that sum has been donated to charities.
The 29-year-old Flintoff has, of course, just made a comeback after surgery on his left ankle. Earlier in the summer, he missed the entire home series against the West Indies and wasn’t available for the three Tests versus India either.
The pedalo affair, when Flintoff almost drowned in the Atlantic, occured in St Lucia after the match against New Zealand. The then vice-captain and five teammates, who’d been drinking for eight hours, had to be rescued from the ocean at the unearthly hour of 4.00 am.
That misdemeanour cost Flintoff the vice-captaincy. He was also dropped for England’s next match, versus Canada. Teammates James Anderson, Ian Bell, John Lewis, Paul Nixon and Liam Plunkett were fined.
Perhaps impressed by the change in Flintoff (England’s No.1 hero during the 2005 Ashes win), the powers-that-be asked him to be “ready” to lead if Paul Collingwood was forced to miss the fourth ODI (at Old Trafford) of the ongoing series.
Collingwood, as it turned out, quickly recovered from his illness.