Bold Aussies target Flintoff
I read where Australia have continued what is now becoming a "tradition" (of sorts) making a point to target the opposition captain
, during tours of Australia. "Target" - in terms of intense pressure, exploiting some known weakeness, getting some negative press...whatever, to make the tour as hard as possible and bring down some other team mates along with a key player.
I'm not sure whether this means they don't always apply the same amount of pressure to all members of the oposition or not...go figure?
This time, of course therefore, they've "targeted" Andrew Flintoff and I feel, this is where they make a mistake. Usually, this practice involves targeting a batsman, and usually a high order batsman. Think back to Hussain, Atherton, even Lara, Tendulka, Flemming, Graeme Smith. These guys are therefore going up, time after time against Glenn McGrath, with a new ball, on fast Australian pitches. They're bound to fail a bit, and when they do, you look clever for having pointed it out. They probably were quite clever in being able to exploit whatever weakeness they've identified, but with Andrew Flintoff, it's a different story.
For starters, he is at his devastating best when bowling. Sure he is a powerful batsman too, but he won most of those matches, or was certainly most influential, as a fast, menacing bowler in the last Ashes series. So how does a side target a fast bowler, day after day, match after match across a summer.
You see for a bowler, he only needs to win once, and a batsman is out, sitting "in the shed for the rest of the day" and you remember it. For a batsman to "target" a bowler is quite different. He would need to not just survive, not just survive and score runs, but to really devastate him, he needs to score at something like 4 or more an over. So when that happens, the result is, the bowler is taken off, goes to field somewhere a regroup for awhile, then comes back again, maybe after a wicket has just fallen, and start again. He gets, 2, 3 maybe 4 chances a day. If still he has no success, he comes back tomorrow. For a bowler, paticularly a fast bowler, momentum and adrenallin are such a major factor and these things can come to you at any time. Even after being dominated for 2 and half session, take a couple of wickets in the last half hour, and you're right back in it. These aspects of the game are where Flintoff especially, excels.
Any minor victories the Australian batsmen have over him, can be undone in one short but devastating spell. And such a spell, will also serve to bring on his confidence with the bat as well. We saw this in England last year - Flintoff started very slowly with the bat, but as he came into the game with the ball, so he did, with the bat.
So I fear that this tactic by the Aussies, while not destined to work with any great success anyway, may in-fact backfire. Flintoff can be inspirational to his side anyway, but as the first opposition captain to tour Australia and conquer the dreaded "targeting" by the Aussie side, just how inspirational will he be? This may just be the factor that lifts the English to win that extra Test they need and retain the Ashes.