Flintoff was speaking to the former Lancashire wicketkeeper Warren Hegg as part of the Lancashire Legends series when he recounted the story of his debut, when he was made to field at second slip to Pakistan’s swing maestro Wasim Akram, who was No.5 in the Test bowlers’ rankings at the time.
“Me debut was a disaster,” Flintoff said. “Played against Hampshire, down at Portsmouth on the army ground. Wasim [Akram] was playing, and Bumble [David Lloyd, then Lancashire coach], he said I was the best slip catcher he’s ever seen, I think, and I catch pigeons. I do, but in kids’ cricket!
“So I got put in the slips, in me first game, which is unheard of. Second slip to Wasim Akram, I dropped three catches before lunch. And Wasim shouted, ‘Get him out there!’. He was like, ‘Come on man.’ It was awful.”
Flintoff didn’t know where to hide. “Can you imagine how it felt, Heggy? I’m there, I’m in pain because I’ve got three marks on me body where the ball’s hit me, so I’ve got a hand on it. I’m 17 years old, I’m surrounded by all me heroes, dropping catches, one of the world’s greatest ever cricketers Wasim Akram is shouting, ‘get him out of the slips!’.
“@BumbleCricket said I was the best slip catcher he’d ever seen” ?
— Lancashire Cricket (@lancscricket) May 16, 2020
“I just went to the ground, like, ‘Just take me now, save me. I don’t want to be here.’”
All these years later, Akram has allowed himself a laugh at those dropped catches. “And look at you now,” he tweeted to Flintoff. “It’s called tough love, and we raised you well.”
Flintoff then credited Akram for the impact he’s had on him, both in and outside cricket. “And I’ll never be able to thank you enough for the impact you had on my career and life.”