DateLine: 19th March 2007
England cricket managers should have acted earlier to curb all-rounder Andrew Flintoff's binge-drinking excesses, British newspapers said Monday after he was fired over a drunken incident in St Lucia.
But while welcoming the discriplinary action, commentators also voiced concern that two team coaches were reportedly in the bar where Flintoff and other players were drinking, and did nothing to stop them.
"Boozer Freddie had it coming," headlined the Daily Mail. "The fact is that England have been avoiding hard decisions about their ebullient all rounder for too long.
"Had they acted earlier, the disruptive effects of Flintoff's binge-drinking exploits would not have arisen during the middle of a World Cup," it added, comparing Flintoff to Ian Botham, also not shy of celebrating.
Flintoff was stripped of his country's vice-captaincy after reports that he had been one of a number of players who stayed out drinking until the early hours of Saturday morning following the six-wicket defeat by New Zealand.
The all-rounder, who went on a 24-hour binge after England's historic Ashes victory in 2005, apologised profusely over the incident, in which he reportedly had to be rescued after taking a hotel pedalo out to sea in the small hours.
"By dropping Andrew Flintoff (England coach) Duncan Fletcher has at last shown he has teeth in that unsmiling mouth," said former England bowler Derek Pringle, writing in the Daily Telegraph.
"But .. there remain searching questions over the team's leadership, especially with regard to discipline," he added, noting along with others than two members of the coaching staff were in the bar.
This fact "begs the question they did not show a bit of savvy and tell the players to head home before midnight.
The Times, calling Flintoff the "people's champion," warned that he was in danger of "capsizing again" unless he gets his act together.
"Andrew Flintoff, the most popular hero in English cricket since Ian Botham, learnt an important lesson yesterday: only winners can drink themselves senseless and get away with it," it said.
"He must rediscover his professionalism quickly if England are to make any impact on the World Cup."
The Daily Mirror published what it called exclusive pictures of Flintoff's fellow players including Jimmy Anderson, Jon Lewis, Liam Plunkett and Ian Bell drinking with a number of girls.
And it quoted an England fan present as voicing disappointment at their behaviour, which came less than two days before another match.
"I watched as my heroes disgraced themselves in a marathon drinking binge. They showed scant regard about representing England and behaved like drunken louts," said the fan.
(Article: Copyright © 2007 AFP)