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Benj Moorehead: Flintoff's second mouth

October 2nd, 2009 by Benj Moorehead in County cricket, England, The media

Of late, turning to the cricket pages is to read the latest instalment of What Chubby Says. Chubby says Flintoff should have played at Headingley. Chubby says Flintoff doesn’t want an England contract so he can go bungee jumping. Chubby says Flintoff gets tired running up snow-covered hills.

We are talking, of course, about Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler, Andrew Flintoff’s agent, the man who has suddenly appeared as Freddie’s second mouth just like the second mouth that suddenly extends, dripping, out of the monster in Alien. It was from this mouth that Hugh Morris, England’s managing director, learnt that Flintoff will be available for selection over the next year.

Couldn’t Flintoff have told Morris himself? But that’s what agents are for.

Exactly! Agents are there to maximise the financial interests of their clients, and the knock-on effect is that players and their team are driven apart from each other. The proliferation of agents in cricket – a consequence of the increasing earning potential of players in a Twenty20 world – is a depressing trend common to football and now to cricket. Talk of a transfer-window system for the county game will only accelerate this process.

Last year I met Sohail Tanvir, the Pakistan left-armer with the whirling action. At times it felt like I was interviewing the squeaky-clean, suited agent who was keeping a close watch. Yet Tanvir was just a 23-year-old cricketer who’d taken a few wickets in the Indian Premier League.

As Simon Hughes said in the Daily Telegraph this week, high-profile cricketers have had agents for some years. But never, it seems, have they been as significant as they are now. And, as Hughes points out, agents are starting to sniff out lesser-known players.

Earlier this season Worcestershire’s Stephen Moore asked his agent to produce a press release for public consumption: “Stephen Moore is bracing himself for the speculation that will surround his possible call-up to the Ashes squad. Never has Stephen been more ready for full England Test honors (sic).” It was, of course, laughable, all the more so when Moore finished with a sub-30 Championship average.

Agents may provide good copy for sportswriters but they are surely harmful to relationships within the game. As go-betweens with an agenda they threaten to alienate players, coaches, officials and the media from each other. They promote a ruthless individualism that has the potential to shatter team spirit and take their clients, at least in the public eye, away from the world of ‘humans’ to the dark underworld of ‘products’.

Benj Moorehead is editorial assistant of The Wisden Cricketer

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