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Steve Harmison exclusive interview – Freddie Flintoff’s magnificent return, Harry Brook selection, what’s next for Zak Crawley

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Last Updated on 8 months by Charbel Coorey

Cricket News: Steve Harmison exclusive interview – Andrew Flintoff, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley and why India are favourites for the WC

Speaking exclusively to Online Cricket Betting, England legend Steve Harmsion says how good it is to see Flintoff back with the England team and that he really is a national treasure, India could still lose the World Cup, despite them playing it in their back garden and how Harry Brook reminds him of Ian Bell in the Ashes.

  • It’s so good to see Andrew Flintoff back, he’s a national treasure
  • I was very worried about his crash last year
  • After Field of Dreams he might go into coaching, who knows, the man loves cricket
  • The World Cup is India’s to lose, but New Zealand will be a force with Williamson back in the squad
  • Seeing Jofra Archer and Andrew Flintoff together has been amazing, the World Cup could be cruel
  • The World Cup could be good for his own rehabilitation
  • Harry Brook was always going to go to the World Cup but he should never have been named that early
  • Zak Crawley’s head could be turned by franchise cricket, the ECB need to sort their central contracts out
  • Eoin Morgan must have struggled playing against Ireland, the man was Irish
  • India can do what they want really but I quite like it

Steve Harmison exclusive interview: Flintoff, Brook, World Cup and more

It’s so good to see Andrew Flintoff back, he’s a national treasure

SH: “It’s brilliant. I think he loved being back and he said he was a bit overwhelmed with the love and affection he got from everybody. Andrew really is a national treasure. I think he realises how much people all over the world, especially in this country, love him.

“He’s received a lot of messages from overseas from those who were so glad to see him in public again. By all accounts, the England lads loved him – who wouldn’t? Having spent the best part of 15 years in the dressing room with him, I know. The only reason he didn’t go into coaching or commentating was because he was so good at other things. Things which made him a lot more money. You couldn’t get him back into cricket!

Cricket News: Steve Harmison exclusive interview - Andrew Flintoff, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley and why India are favourites for the WC

“Now, if he decides to do that, I’d love to see it. It’d be great to have him in commentary as he’s very funny, he also has a lot to give in the coaching side due to his knowledge of the game. He says he’s a daft boy from Preston – but he’s definitely not. His understanding of cricket is ridiculous. I think he’d be a very, very good coach – but the TV stuff always paid him more.

It was great to see him back on the field, smiling, and sharing jokes with Joe Root and Ben Stokes. Stokes got a chance to sit with Andrew – and that’s unbelievable. Andrew Flintoff never had the chance to sit with the great Ian Botham, but Stokes and Flintoff having a conversation over a cup of coffee would be great to listen to. What they’ve both had to go through on and off the field is extraordinary, and I’m sure they’ll enjoy each other’s company.”

I was very worried about his [Flintoff] crash last year

SH: “Very. I’m not going to hide it. When I saw some of the pictures, I was upset. I saw him during his rehab and his son and my son played cricket together and Andrew was just starting to come out of the house and back into the world. We all knew the love and affection for him would be there, but it’s easier said than done for someone in his position. 

“For me, that was the hardest part – everybody said it would be great to see him in cricket again, but he didn’t want to come out in public. The minute he did, we knew that he really wanted to. It was about his own confidence, and it was great to see him back with a smile on his face. He’s gone through a hell of a lot, he really has. It was a huge ordeal and nobody can understand what somebody goes through inside. Having suffered from mental health issues, I know that people who don’t understand will try to give advice, and that can cause more harm than help.

“Andrew has probably had loads of people wishing him well and asking how he is, but sometimes that’s harmful. Andrew needed his own time, he’s taken it, and now he’s back. It’s brilliant to see. Some of the injuries he had were pretty horrific.”

After Field of Dreams he might go into coaching, who knows, the man loves cricket

SH: “I’m not so sure. I think whilst Rob Key is at the helm, he’ll be pushing Andrew to get involved in anything he possibly can do. Who wouldn’t want Andrew Flintoff in the dressing room? I can’t understate how good he is in a dressing room, from his ability to relax, the ability to say the right thing at a tense time, the ability to realise the moment when someone might need a kick up the backside, and his all-round charisma, which you’ve seen on TV, it’s a package that nobody wouldn’t want.

“It’s up to him. I know he loves cricket and he always has. He’s a larger-than-life character who might clown around sometimes, but his ability to switch on to a serious cricketer was always evident. When he was on the field, he stood up 9 times out of 10. Especially under pressure. We’ll have to see where he goes from a TV point of view. I’m sure there’ll be another series of Field of Dreams because he’s passionate about cricket and helping people – and that was a great help to a lot of people who were less fortunate than those who play cricket for a living. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the show back. I haven’t spoken to him about it, but I think he loved it – especially when two or three of the lads were recognized in the professional game.

“I spoke about Jofra’s baby steps, and I think Andrew’s will need baby steps, too. I think Rob Key will be trying to get him involved wherever he can.”

The World Cup is India’s to lose, but New Zealand will be a force with Williamson back in the squad

SH: “I think England are in a good place. I do, however, fear that we’re not good enough numbers wise. We’re right to be loyal to our players who’ve taken us here, but they’re not getting any younger and I think the World Cup schedule could take its toll on the players. I think we’ve got an excellent 15 but we could have had one or two more good options. 

“Brydon Carse could have filled that Liam Plunkett role, sacrificing more of the left arm bowlers in India. However, I think that it’s excellent all-in-all. I’m gutted for Jason Roy because I think he deserves his chance. Dawid Malan has taken his chance, though, and he deserves credit. Three weeks ago, he wasn’t in the squad as far as I’m concerned.

Cricket News: Steve Harmison exclusive interview - Andrew Flintoff, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley and why India are favourites for the WC

“When you’re picking teams, you have to go with what’s in front of you. Jason Roy’s back was playing up and Malan took his chance. He had to go. Harry Brook had to go as a spare batter as he covers a lot of bases. I think England are in a good place. I still think it’s India’s to lose, but they’re having it in their own back garden and that can put them under pressure. They have made mistakes in big tournaments in the knockout stages. England, along with Pakistan, are up there, and New Zealand will be a force with Kane Williamson back. Australia don’t look as if they’re at it, but we should never rule them out when it comes to World Cups. I think England look quite strong and balanced and out of all of that lot, they have the best chance.

“The bowlers have had a run-out, the batters are in decent form, and I think they can go to India with a decent amount of confidence. The only batter who hasn’t really performed in this New Zealand series is Joe Root, but we’re going to India – and I have no hang-ups about him whatsoever. This guy is the best player in the world and he’s going to be England’s most important player throughout this World Cup. He hasn’t scored any runs, but hopefully, he’s saving them for the big occasion – this World Cup.”

Seeing Jofra Archer and Andrew Flintoff together has been amazing, the World Cup could be cruel

SH: “It was brilliant! He’s been magnificent. To see Jofra bowling, and my big pal Andrew Flintoff was great. I think Jofra is amazing and if we talk about me being a big Harry Brook fan, I’m just as big of a Jofra fan.

“It was great to see him play with no pressure on his shoulders – and that’s not easy. I think it’d be cruel if he played in a World Cup having not played for almost two years. You can see why they’re doing it, though, as he’s so good and you can see the allure of taking him.

I understand his selection, but I think it’s best if he isn’t used. That way, you can work with the correct time frame and schedule. Last time, he was dropped into a franchise tournament and he was gone within a month. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen again. It’s always a joy to see him bowling. That’s true irrespective of how talented they are – it’s always great to see a bowler back after a long absence. Hopefully, baby steps will be taken to return Jofra into the bowler we all know he can be. If he gets back to that level, what a proposition that is for England going forward!”

Cricket News: Steve Harmison exclusive interview - Andrew Flintoff, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley and why India are favourites for the WC

The World Cup could be good for his [Archer] own rehabilitation

SH: “I think you’d take him because the medical team is going out to India. If I couldn’t put him in a holding camp in Dubai or Abu Dhabi and get him up to speed, then I’d take him to the World Cup just for his own rehabilitation.

“However, I wouldn’t be taking him out to India to play cricket and play in a World Cup game. I think that’s unfair on the lad. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen and that he goes over to India, bowls his heart out in the nets, and gets back up to speed with the medical team. Fingers crossed that further down the line, we’ll be seeing Jofra playing cricket for England – whether that’s in the Caribbean, in India in a few months’ time, or in the IPL. I don’t care where he plays cricket – I just want to see the boy back.

“As a bowler myself, I find it tough to see him struggling. I know it’s been hard for the lad. I just want to see him playing cricket again. He’s a special talent.” 

Harry Brook was always going to go to the World Cup but he should never have been named that early

SH: “It was inevitable. It’s not so much the selection, it’s the early selection at the World Cup which is a complete no-no. It really was. To pick your squad that far out, with games in between, I think the selection is always going to be made easy, but you know that with this New Zealand series, somebody was going to get injured and somebody was going to lose form. I don’t see why you’d pick your squad before then instead of waiting until the series finished. If you had, you would’ve seen Jason Roy’s issues.

“Harry Brook had to go to India. He might not play in the first eleven in the first game, but he will take part in the tournament – he’ll be a force whether it’s at the top or in the middle order. He’s a quality, quality player.

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“I always said that, when Brook came in, he’d play forever and be around for a long, long time. You have to find a way to get him in the squad, keep him there, and build it around him because the others will drop off. I knew that Brook would be front and centre at the next World Cup and that he’d be our Joe Root-type figure. For that reason, you had to get him involved. It wasn’t a case of taking a young lad for experience, because he really was one of the best we had.

“When Ian Bell played in the 2005 Ashes, I don’t think there was any question about dropping him even if he didn’t score any runs. The simple fact was, we knew that he would play for a long time. He went on to win five Ashes series.

“For me, Brook is in that mold. I feel sorry for Jason, but I think his race is run. He’s been a great servant and when England have played well and won, Jason always played a big role. I think England will have to change a little bit now as they haven’t got that 40 off 25 balls, which doesn’t sound like a big score, but it does set the tone and the impetus of the innings and gets the powerplay going. It gets your clutch players a chance to come in and give themselves a bit more time. That’s not there for England now, as they don’t have anyone in the top of the order. They’ll have to change a little bit, but I still think it’s a good squad.”

Zak Crawley’s head could be turned by franchise cricket, the ECB need to sort their central contracts out

SH: “I think it’s very hard to say that somebody’s going to win 50 or 100 caps. You identify players you think will get that far – players like Harry, Zak, and Ollie Pope – these players who you feel if they fit and their form is good, they can play for England for a long time.

“Zak is definitely one of them due to the way England play and the way they feel about him. If he does well, then franchise tournaments will be knocking on his door. England need to get these contracts right this time, or try and get a settlement which is a compromise to get them to the next stage. It’s going to be intriguing to see. I’m sure England will try to build their Ashes cycle around Zak, Ollie Pope, Harry Brook, Mark Wood, and Jofra Archer, and try to keep the franchise tournaments at bay by giving England players the right amount of money.

“England don’t need to try and control them, but they need to have the final say on where their next destination is. I think that’s important.”

Cricket News: Zak Crawley predicts an England win by 150 runs at Lord's | Ashes 2023 Lord's Test prediction: Crawley has his say

Eoin Morgan must have struggled playing against Ireland, the man was Irish 

SH: “I bet it was difficult as Eoin was Irish. A lot of Irish people have come over when they’re 5 or 6, but Morgan was Irish through and through. One of the greatest men I ever met was Jack Charlton, who was an English manager of the Irish football team, and he’d always look for English players who had a distant connection with Ireland through their grandparents. 

“That wasn’t Eoin’s situation though, as he is a fully-fledged Irishman and that would’ve pulled on heartstrings – especially when he played against them when they were very successful against England.

“He’s a professional, though, and he was England captain. Once you cross that white line, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing against. The stumps don’t move and the ball stays the same whether you’re facing Ireland or Australia. You play the game accordingly, and that was probably what Eoin was thinking when he was facing Ireland. What happened before or after the game is one thing, but during it, it’s about 22 guys facing each other. What Ireland gave to him was amazing, and you celebrate afterward.”

India can do what they want really but I quite like it

SH: “I’m not so sure why India aren’t opening the tournament, but I like how they’ve done it. It is giving England and New Zealand respect for being the finalists four years ago. I don’t see any issue with that. I know the hosts tend to play the opener, but India can do what they’re most comfortable with as they’re controlling it.” 

Charbel Coorey
Charbel Cooreyhttps://cricblog.net
Charbel is the owner & founder of cricblog.net, based in Sydney, Australia. He started the website to fulfill his love for the game of cricket. Charbel has been featured on other publications including OP India, Times of India, and The Roar, among others. He is also a keen fantasy sports player. Charbel has also had the privilege of interviewing cricketers on the CricBlog TV YouTube channel, including James Neesham, Rassie van der Dussen, Andrew Tye, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat and Saurabh Netravalkar: https://www.youtube.com/@cricblogtv For any story tips or questions, you can contact Charbel at charbelcoorey@cricblog.net.

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