Freddie says he’s getting better

Andrew Flintoff... top all-rounder.-V. GANESAN

Andrew Flintoff, who is recovering from an ankle injury, feels that his best days are ahead of him. Over to Ted Corbett for a summary of events.

June 25: Just as a reminder to those English cricketers who believe that the dread lurgi as they often call stomach illness will blight every trip abroad we have evidence it can hurt other touring sportsmen too. Several members of the I ndian side cannot even train and it is spreading to the South African side too. Luckily, as befits well-conditioned athletes, some make rapid recoveries so that the emergency brigade who rush to Belfast from Liverpool, India and eventually Ulster, are given light duties rather than being sent out to play immediately. Worst affected of all is the South African mediaman Gordon Templeton, so ill that the tiny press corps received a special request not even to ring his number.

June 26: The rain holds off but the temperature at the Civil Service Ground where India play South Africa is Arctic. I come straight here from the sub-continent where it is 40 degrees and try to cope with 10 degrees. It is more than th e body can stand, says Rameez Raja, one of the Nimbus commentators. By the side of the luxurious and well appointed pavilion — how well the civil servants treat themselves in their leisure time — there are a group of fans who are clearly Belfast born. They have that sharp and nasal Northern Irish twang which is distinctly different from that of the people of Southern Ireland with their lilting voices. These people are different, their parents come all the way from central India. I hear that Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis continue to arrive in Belfast even during the times when the city is divided on political and religious lines and disputes are often settled by bombs and bullets. The Indians retreat to their own areas and The Troubles largely pass them by. Now even more men and women from the sub-continent are setting up home in Belfast. My daddy arrives in Belfast when he’s a wee boy, says one Rahul, proud to bear the same name as the Indian captain. He loves it here, but I’m just as keen to head back to India one day and see where my roots lie. He will not tell me how old he is, but I judge him to be about 12. And his ambition? I’m going to be a spinner, he says. And play for India? Maybe not. Since I was a wee laddie I want to play for England. He even knows the history. Just like Ranji, Duleep and Pataudi? I tease him. No, like Monty Panesar. He’s a great wee bowler. Wee is a term of affection in this city as it is in Scotland so I refrain from pointing out that Panesar is nearly 6ft tall.

June 27: The last time I see a rain storm of this intensity I am a soldier in the jungles of Malaya or watching cricket in semi-tropical Brisbane. What is going on? It is only a few days after the summer solstice. We walk from the car park to the press tent for the practice day, perhaps half a mile, without coats, in warm, spring-like conditions to hear that the Indian team are unable to provide anyone for the press conference until after they train. Perhaps at 4.30, so we will have to wait. Of course this does not suit the reporters from the sub-continent where the time is four and a half hours ahead and deadlines wait for no man. But, I am glad to say, there are powerful gods working on behalf of journalists and along comes a cloud burst so gigantic that the Indians head for the gym and a delegation working from the press box point out that there is no reason not to hold a press briefing. By now there are pools of water on the ground, the television cameramen are holding umbrellas above their delicate electronics and the fashionable clothes of the presenters are a sorry mess. It is time for us to head off like proper tourists for the Giants Causeway, a bizarre collection of squared off rocks on the north coast. It looks as if they are man made, but apparently they are always there in that perfect cube and no one is sure just how.

June 29: As Sachin Tendulkar draws near to 15,000 runs I search through the records to see who is close enough to overtake him. No one, of course and then to see who has the most runs for England. The answer is Alec Stewart but in fact it is not any sort of answer at all. Stewart, as dapper as ever and acting for a number of young cricketers, notably Matt Prior, the new England wicket-keeper, ranks 52nd followed by Marcus Trescothick. It is simply yet another sign that the English hierarchy cannot take one-day cricket seriously.

June 30: Freddie Flintoff is also right up there at the head of England’s one-day batsmen and says he is getting better after his ankle injury. He adds: I’m 29 now but I still feel my best days are ahead of me. So don’ ;t rush back Freddie; time is still on your side. If Andrew Murray can miss Wimbledon to make sure he is fully fit, you can miss this season if necessary.

July 1: It is precisely a year since the death of Fred Trueman at a youthful 75 and it comes on the day Parliament orders everyone in the country to give up smoking in public. I cannot imagine what Fred, a former pipe smoker, will say at this invasion of our human rights but I am sure it will not be favourable even though his cancer may have his old habit as a cause. A lot happens in the last year. Yorkshire are still making plans for a Trueman memorial and funds are being raised for one in his home town of Skipton, even though his wife moves out of their lovely bungalow where Fred loves to watch the birds fly in and out of his old-fashioned garden. There are a variety of books on the Trueman life in preparation. One will be by one Chris Waters who tells me he gathers a great deal of new information about Trueman’s young days. He has been given access to Fred’s papers by Mrs. Trueman and he has diligently sought out those who knew Fred best from Geoff Boycott to team-mates in his 20 years close to Yorkshire, BBC types like Henry Blofeld, Jon Agnew and Trevor Bailey besides school friends, cricketers like Sir Garfield Sobers who remain close to Fred throughout his life, and all the old-timers with good stories to tell. Chris, the cricket correspondent of the ‘Yorkshire Post’, has a deadline nearly three years from now, plenty of space to relate all the anecdotes and simply needs the time to turn his notes into prose befitting the man who says of himself he is ‘The Greatest Fast Bowler Who Ever Draws Breath’.

How can anyone fail to make a readable book from the life of a man of such stature?