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Friday, 10 August 2012
Young cricketers got the chance to meet their hero when Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff paid a visit to Bolton School.
Freddie's visit was part of a one-week Cricket Academy at the School, giving around 80 local boys and girls, aged 5-16 and of all levels of ability, a fantastic opportunity to learn cricket the Andrew Flintoff way. The week was one of several academies run in conjunction with Activate Sport and the Co-operative, which are taking place across the UK with the aim of inspiring an early interest in cricket. Participants experienced professional coaching and skills sessions, mini-tournaments and, of course, the question and answer session with Freddie. The former England International had hoped to make it for a coaching session but heavy traffic unfortunately meant he was too late to take part in any games, but quickly launched into 15 minutes of questions and answers before signing shirts, bats and programmes, and chatting further with the youngsters.
When asked if Cricket should be part of the Olympics, Freddie thought not – saying that although he would have loved to have been part of the Olympics, some sports, which have big tournaments of their own should remain separate from the Olympics, as in cricket, nothing is bigger than the Ashes or the World Cup. Other questions revealed that Freddie got into cricket because his dad played and he used to go along to watch. He played for Lancashire aged 9 and got into the second team at just 15. He only ever got one hat trick at international level against the West Indies, and despite his many hundreds he still remembers his first one - aged 11 for Lancashire v Kent where he got 125 not out. Freddie described the best wicket he ever took as against India when he got Sachin Tendulkar (one of his cricketing heroes) out in the 8th over in Calcutta, saying: “There were 120,000 in the stadium and 50,000 left when I got him out!”
Asked his thoughts on sledging, he says he doesn’t mind it if it is done with humour and not crossing the line, however contrary to popular belief, was never any good at it. Outside cricket, the scariest things he has ever done include riding a bull in a Texas rodeo, and a week spent filming in Botswana on his own where his tent was surrounded by lions at night and by elephants during the day! Despite not being star struck by anyone outside cricket, he named his heroes as Ian Botham and Sachin Tendulkar, and did admit to being at a function recently with David Beckham, where he couldn't stop staring at him!
Freddie said: “Cricket has given me so much and I want to pass on my passion for the game to as many youngsters as I can. I never had the chance to play cricket when I was at school, we just played football. I was a centre half and was rubbish. Hopefully the academies can help get kids interested in cricket. If we find a star of the future, all well and good, but that’s not really what it’s about. It’s about getting the kids out there and enjoying the game.”
Participants included many pupils from Bolton School, and children from local cricket clubs including Heaton, Horwich and Westhoughton, plus Bowdon near Altrincham, and even one participant from High Wycombe. Lewis, aged 9, said: "It has been a great week and I have definitely got better at cricket and made some new friends. Meeting Freddie was a really special moment!" Ten year old Nathan added: “I play cricket for the district team and it is inspiring meeting Andrew Flintoff.”, while nine year old George said: “It’s really exciting to meet Andrew Flintoff, I would like to play like him.”
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