Tag Archives: Andrew Flintoff

The Pure Subject of Will-less Knowing – Flintoff’s Aesthetic Experience

“Unfulfilled desires are painful, and pleasure is merely the sensation experienced at the instant one such pain is removed … unfulfilled desires are painful, and pleasure is merely the sensation experienced at the instant one such pain is removed …”

With these words ringing out from the neat white earphones of his i-pod, Andrew Flintoff mounted the stairs four at a time to the England dressing room at Lord’s on Monday 20th July 2009.  [Third Man has described some earlier scenes from this match here and here which possibly need to be read first.]

The night before Flintoff had down loaded a ten minute talk on Arthur Schopenhauer from Philosophy Bites.  With stuff like this going on in his head he cared not that his knee was the size of a beach ball and that playing that day risked doing such irrepairable damage that he would never be able to play again. 

As others have found, Schopenauer banishes pain ten times better than the anti-inflammatory injections and painkillers he’d had back at the team hotel.

Flintoff had never before been so excited about a day’s cricket in a life already filled with intense cricketing emotions.  “This guy ‘Shop ‘n drop’ is powerful stuff,” he confided to Anderson in the corner they shared in the dressing room.   “No, man, he’s dropped the essence of Kant,” expatiated the Burnley boy.

Today Flintoff had had a good haircut at a favourite barber’s shop around the corner and was going to blow the remaining Australian batsmen away with this new mental technique.

“Straussy, don’t you dare take me off.  I know I’ve got the capacity for aesthetic experience today.  I can feel it.  I just know it.”   “What ever,” mumbled the England Captain, winding some tape on a finger bruised when taking a questionable catch the day before.

“I can see the ball I’m gonna give Haddin.  Not the real ball, skip, but the ideal form of it.”  “Yer, yer.  I tried that Platonic stuff last year to get my hips and feet back in line.  It’s over rated.”

“Fancy a bowl in the nets Fred?” suggested Ottis Gibson.  “Don’t need it, coach.  It’s all in my head.   I tried it yesterday, first thing.  I just stayed here for a minute or two after everyone left .  For a brief moment I escaped the cycle of the unfulfilled Lord’s 5fer, the blank on that bloody board.  Then …  I just got there.   Following you all down stairs, I became, you know, the pure subject of will-less knowing.”

“Freddie, you’re a work of art, that’s what you are,” said Peitersen revealing in afrikaans an unsuprisingly deep understanding of the German philosopher’s ideas.  “A right piss artist,” said the rest of England team, in unison, revealing much else.

The rest is history.  Haddin knicked off to Collingwood at second slip on the fourth ball of Flintoff’s first over that morning.

The great cricketer stood Christ-like as his fellows mobbed him.  “You’re effing there Freddie,” said Alastair Nathan Cook, his hand drawn instinctively to the bowler’s heart.   A silent Flintoff nodded firmly and deliberately in agreement. 

He was there, the pure subject of will-less knowing on the very spot where Richards and Lloyd had had their aesthetic experiences in World Cup Finals, where Bradman and Hammond had got there in Tests, where Lillee and Massey had become transcendently will-less on a muggy day in ‘72.  Where Grace and Sobers … so many others had found the thing in itself in a simple field that had once been part of the Eyre family’s estate at the edge of St John’s Wood village.

“Your’re effing there Freddie,” said Alastair Nathan Cook, his hand reaching instinctively to the bowler's great heart.

Clarke did not delay them long.  Dancing Feet came down the track to Swann, found himself yorked and quit the field at the end of another of the great Lord’s innings. 

Hauritz, mesmerised by the intense stare in Flintoff’s eyes, left a ball that the bowler had already seen would jag back and crash into the off stump, leaving it leaning sideways like a crocked tooth.

By now the roar around Lord’s was deafening to all but Flintoff who heard only the inner quiet of the aesthetic experience, the one hand clapping of the noumenon from where he could not sense his body demanding release from this torture.  The three cortisone injections from a few days before were inadequate to prevent the disintegration of his knee.    

A cry went up, but was not heard. With four wickets to his name, his body refused to take him back to his mark, those hard yards ahead of him. 

Will-less, Flintoff,  turned there and then,  eight paces from the bowling crease. 

If he could go no further, he would bowl from here, where he stood.  If this was to be his last ball it would be ‘the’ ball. 

Starting wide, angling in, and surfing time as the day before he had surfed his team mates, Flintoff foresaw the ideal delivery force itself through the batsman’s feeble guard to crash into the centre stump as if he was once more that boy playing in a Preston street.

The photograph, left, shows Flintoff for the last time as a player leaving the Eyre’s field, Thomas Lord and James Dark’s great enterprise. 

He has fulfilled his sponsorship duties and hurdles, with no thought to his knee now, the eccentric rise from the playing area up a couple of steps and through that famous old field gate.  As he does so, up in the dressing room, a tatty piece of masking tape is being stuck to the honour’s board:  2009     A Flintoff     Australia     5 – 92

In the Long Room the Australian Captain’s expression is like none seen before.  Boyish.  Puckish.  What does he have in his hand?  Who is he trying to catch sight of?

Compassion, says Schopenhauer, arises from the penetration of the illusory perception of individuality, so that one can empathize with the suffering of another.  In this way compassion serves as a clue to the possibility of going beyond desire and the will. 

But then again, as Third Man learnt at his father’s knee, “Never show an Australian compassion.  Transcendence is one thing, boy, beating Australia is quite another thing in itself.”

In a painting such as Willem Kalf’s Ewer, Vessels and Pomegranate (above), Arthur Schopenhauer believed an artist could communicate the aesthetic experience to others through the beauty to be seen in ordinary everyday objects.   The parallel Third Man hopes to have made should need no further explanation.


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The Role of Imaginary Numbers in Understanding a Game of Cricket


Upon retirement the Cumberland fast left arm round-the-wicket swinger, Melvin Bragg, launched a radio discussion series for the BBC exploring the history of ideas.  He called the series In Our Time Machine.    A sub-editor at the Radio Times, short of space but not of time, removed the word Machine from the title so that the series is widely but erroneously known as In Our Time.

Melvin has a Type II Time Machine which, although stylistically an inferior model, does the basics very well, though it must be rather cramped for four.

Melvin travels as he bowled, that is, furiously and with an unreliable internal radar system.  The cluster of short legs that he insisted on having round the bat were often in greater danger than the batsman.

For this reason time travellers give Broadcasting House a wide berth on Thursday mornings and use The Radio Times to forewarn them of dates and locations to avoid when Melvin and his mates are fooling around in the continuum.

This week the programme  covered the subject of imaginary numbers and, while Melvin and his mates were coming and going, only the reckless among other time travellers dared drop in at the C16th Lombardy home of Hieronymus Cardanus   (to use his Sunday name) for morning coffee or any of the mid C16th haunts of Rafael Bombelli for a gossip or Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss’ very late C18th rooms for a morning glass of schnapps. 

Third Man has always left ‘that which is under the bonnet’ of his Mark III to the village blacksmith, but apparently for some (the French cricketer with a limited back lift, Rene Descarte being one) there can be a difficulty in imagining a number which when squared comes to minus 1 or, for others, seeing the back of their head in a mirror (not of course for Rene Magritte -see above).

As any fule kno, Bombelli in L’Algebra (1569) had been the first to perform computations with negative numbers and ‘Minus times minus makes plus’. So, as Form 3B would say,  ‘timesing’ a number by itself to produce -1 is pretty damned difficult and would have given even Roy Webber, Arthur Wrigley and Bill Frindall a few sleepless nights.

Third Man finds “Just jump” a helpful rule of thumb.  Imagine a number with the property that, when squared, equals minus one.  That should do it: viz.  i 2 = −1 where i is the imaginary unit, et voila M. Descarte.

With these imaginary units Third Man finds he can work with real units to pry into the meaning of most experiences and take a shufty at ‘the thing in itself’ .

[Skip the following if you’re tired but the Squire, who is a member of the Royal Society and who likes to think he understands these things, insists that Third Man uses some of his notes on the concept of complex numbers (found here).    

[We can represent a complex number by  a + bi  where a and b are real numbers, and i is the imaginary unit, which has the property i 2 = −1.  The real number a is called the real part of the complex number, and the real number b is the imaginary part.  For example, 3 + 2i is a complex number, with real part 3 and imaginary part 2.  If z = a + bi, the real part a is denoted Re(z) or ℜ(z), and the imaginary part b is denoted Im(z) or ℑ(z). 

[The complex numbers (C) are regarded as an extension of the real numbers (R) by considering every real number as a complex number with an imaginary part of zero. The real number a is identified with the complex number a + 0i. Complex numbers with a real part of zero (Re(z)=0) are called imaginary numbers. Instead of writing 0 + bi, that imaginary number is usually denoted as just bi. If b equals 1, instead of using 0 + 1i or 1i, the number is denoted as i.] 

Complex but rewarding stuff if you have time enough.

Actually it maybe a lot easier just to look at a couple of paintings by  the rather stolid Belgian opening batsman Rene Magritte, who like Boycott is in to hats in a big way as this portrait demonstrates.

Magritte’s juxtaposition of ordinary objects in an unusual context gives new meanings to familiar things.  Very a + bi

In works entitled The Human Condition, (above and below) Rene Magritte tries to make the point that no matter how closely, through realism-art, we come to depicting an item accurately, we never do catch the item itself.  (To substitute ‘ the thing in itself’ here may be going too far but these two examples begin to make the point.

Ceci n'est pas un match de cricket

Third Man’s own surrealistic work (left) and homage to Magritte “Ceci n’est pas un match de cricket” with it’s realistic representation of the 2009 Lord’s Test complete score card appears at first sight a contradiction but is of course actually and indisputably true.

Indeed this is not the cricket match – the cricket match, qua the thing in itself (to borrow from Kant and Schopenhauer), was contained somewhere in a complex combination of the real and the imaginary parts of the continuing Clarke/Hadden partnership and Andrew Flintoff’s fitness on that final day of the match.

Could Clarke and Hadden ensure Australia made 522 to make cricketing history and go one up in the series? Could Flintoff take his first 5fer at Lord’s in his last Test match there … even possibly in his last ever Test appearance?

Prior to the start of play that morning, Flintoff bowled just two deliveries in the nets before limping back to the Pavilion, leaving a trail of questions.

The next installment which follows the match next day can be found here.

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Cricket: The World of Will and Representation

Arthur Schopenhauer has been supplying some of the best mental equipment for cricketers since 1814.   Much of it was on show on Sunday 19th July 2009 at Lord’s where Third Man has taken his trusty Time Machine.   For those who have not shared the journey There’s a chance to catch-up here

Andrew Strauss has declared England’s second innings closed at 311 for 6, setting Australia 522 runs to win. 

Andrew Flintoff – Team Talisman and Keeper of the Keys to Victory –  has been the last man to emerge from the dressing room that morning, his aching wounds numbed by pain-killing injections, his mind reaching down to the very depths of his mental cricket bag, where among the stray sticking plasters, bits of used batting tape, old chewing gum packets, empty cans of Red Bull, discarded bat grips and tattered comics, great cricketers keep the special kit that marks them out from lesser players;  deep desire, striving, wanting, effort and urging.  

Now, from the slips, Flintoff watches as Anderson bowls the first over of the day.  Between deliveries he searches for the thing in itself.  In the theatre of his mind he feels for his rhythm and finds a representation which will propel a pristine Duke  nineteen yards towards the Australian openers.

Flintoff puzzles with the noumenon as he puts a shine on the Duke

In only his second over, Flintoff draws Katich into a loose drive. The batsman’s feet sluggish from the wrong kind of adrenalin barely move.  His bat at the extremity of control finds the ball a nano-second early. He has lost this skirmish for the point of contact and the Duke flies to the waiting Pietersen in the gully.  

Zeus, immediately, the Match Referee and two million viewers seconds later, see that Fintoff’s front foot has overstepped the line – but not Umpire Koertzen.  17 for 1.

This brings Indomitable Ponting to the wicket with the inexperienced Hughes who, six overs later, edges a Flintoff delivery to the low-cupped hands of Strauss.  Ponting yells to Hughes to stay his ground, challenging the England Captain, but Koertzen once more has made his decision. 

Zeus chuckles at the arbitrary world he has created for these foolish men as Strauss, surrounded by his jubilant team, picks a stray blade of grass from beneath his finger nail. The phenomenon is 34 for 2.

Third Man is loitering in the Long Room after lunch, twiddling the end of the blue silk cord that the Australian captain has asked to be put up to keep his team safe from impassioned members of the MCC.  It is therefore a fitting place from which to watch a livid Ponting return, bowled by Broad for 38 (78 for 3). 

A member offers his sympathy – Hard luck, Mr Ponting – to this passing Giant of the Game, who takes a further step or two and, without once looking back to his well-wisher, raises his super-short Kookaburra and clatters it against a glass cabinet appropriately full of previously donated bats.

Swann dismisses Hussey and then bowls North with the one that ‘goes on’.  But thanks to Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin Australia are 178 – 5 at tea.

Third Man is at the bottom of the home side’s stairway when the earner rings.  He watches a relaxed and buoyant England descend from their dressing room. 

As Strauss pushes the swing door that will take him into the Long Room another great roar goes up from within.  Bringing up the rear again, Flintoff hears the cry, feeds off the energy from below, takes up the holler like some imitation of the Primordial Scream, and, from the landing, launches himself head first onto his unsuspecting team mates below like a surfer catching a reef break to be carried by them onwards into the foaming mass.

But Clarke and Haddin have other ideas, other wills, other representations. Nor Swann, nor Collingwood, nor Broad, nor Anderson, nor even mighty Flintoff can part them, nor diminish their confidence, nor tame their aggression, nor stem the flow of runs.

Haddin and Clarke - representation or the thing in itself? Time will tell.

At 6.55 pm, with the two unbeaten on 125 and 80 in a partnership of 185, they leave the field, all England wondering whether tomorrow it is just possible that Australia can make the remaining 209 runs to win.


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Flintoff and Australian Pain Barriers

27 overs 4 maidens 5 wickets for 92 runs.  Andrew Flintoff’s  first 5 wicket haul at The ‘Home of Cricket’ and only his third in a career spanning 79 Test matches.

Then why was that 5fer in his last innings at Lord’s inevitable?  He willed it so.

It was the second Test of the series.  In the first, England, against the odds, had hung on to the worst end of a draw.  In their first innings at Lord’s, thanks to a mighty 161 from Andrew Strauss they had clocked up a solid 425 – a par score from which the game could take each of its four possible courses.  Classic cricket.

Led by Anderson and Onions, with four and three wickets each, England bowled out Australia for 215 and established a grip on the Australian throat.  Tightening that grip, Strauss chose not to enforce the follow on and at 4.35 an over each England batsman played his part in taking the lead to 524.

Could Australia match England’s defensive spirit from the first Test?  Could Australia rise to the record breaking challenge and on a good wicket execute a morale destroying coup de grace? At 356 – 6, on the final morning, with Michael ‘Dancing Feet’ Clarke 136 not out and Johnson connecting well, for the faint of heart history looked in the making.  Yes, yes and then came Flintoff.

But Third Man has taken things too far too quickly.  He must reverse the trusty Time Machine 24 hours to the start of the fourth day’s play on Sunday morning the 19th July. 

Juddering into the new present (time travel can be nausiating), he finds good company on the top deck of the Pavilion where the ‘live’ question is whether England will declare their second innings at their over night score of 311 with Flintoff not out 30 and Broad not out 0, or will they make Australia field again.

Soon a buzz goes round the ground.  “They’ve declared!”

Third Man’s companion says that he is going down to the Long Room to watch the players take the field.  In years of slipping in and out of Dark’s, he had never done this before, believing that players deserve their privacy walking to and from the field.

He had once unintentionally passed a hot, sweating and devastated Graham Gooch on the stairs, had see in his eyes the mental exhaustion as the adrenalin that had sustained him left him to the mercy of the deepest fatigue.  It had seemed an unforgiveable intrusion just to be walking down stairs in an ‘ordinary walking down stairs way’ when here was the helmeted Ajax returning to within the Walls of Illium after an hour’s battle with Akram.

He remembers, too, Rod Marsh and a member having a serious set too on the concourse in front of the Committee Room window during a long and tedious break for rain.  “Mr Marsh, I take great exception to that!” had screamed the member.  “You can take what you f**king like, mate,” had replied the Antipodean.

But this is a special occasion and TM so wants to see Flintoff in what he thinks will be the Preston boy’s last Test, so hobbled does he seem from injury upon injury and reliant on pain killing injections to silence the warning pain as more and more irreparable damage is being done.

TM skips down the southern stairs in a stream of excited members making for the Long Room, but he chooses to stand alone on the bottom rung on the first landing outside the England dressing room.  One by one the players emerge, led by Strauss.  He counts ten of them chatting to each other and going about their business as if it was any other day.  But no Flintoff.

Then, out he comes.  As silent as the dead.  Staring into the middle distance in a trance of concentration, summoning from somewhere within him the power of the will to win.  He is set apart, physically and mentally.  He alone can and will win this match.  He alone has the mental strength to return to his mark time and time again, turn and run in … no matter what the situation, no matter where the game is, no matter what had happened to the previous ball.

As Strauss reaches the bottom of the stairs and, with nine of his team behind him, enters a Long Room packed tight there rises up the stairway such a roar that it shakes the historic foundations of the building and stirs in the trailing Flintoff a special force …

(to be continued.)

AN EXTRA: later that day the Australian captain asked for barriers to be erected to allow his players through the Long Room unmolested and from somewhere in the banqueting suite Mr Bradshaw and his stewards found polished silver posts and a bright blue silk rope. Behind these oddly refined pain barriers, Ponting and his batsmen, one by one, showered in cruel invective, a particularly English mixture of venom and sarcasm, would make their way through that room to the double doors, into the searing light and the vivid green of the field of play.


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