Monty’s spin on: Freddie Flintoff’s ‘Field of Dreams’

By Isabel Millett

21st Jul 2022 | Local Features

Former England cricketer Monty Panesar looks at Field of Dreams, the new BBC series by Andrew Flintoff.

At the age of 16, I was making my debut for Bedfordshire against Cambridgeshire at Wardown Park in Luton. I bowled 30 overs in baking hot heat and Wayne Larkins told me "You can play for England; you have a very similar action like Bishan Bedi".

The brilliant BBC TV series by Andrew Flintoff – Field of Derams - reminded me of where I was as teenager full of hope and my own dreams.

The series has focussed on Adnan, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan who wants to become a professional cricketer. I just can't imagine how he must be feeling to get the opportunity to play cricket. After all, he learned the game from watching YouTube.

In the final episode, it was a moving moment when Flintoff took Adnan to Old Trafford and they walked in to the middle of the ground.

It gave him goosebumps, and it took me back those days when I was playing Tests at Old Trafford. This ground has been my most successful, the pitch had everything - turn and bounce.

Adnan desperately wants to become a professional cricketer and in the final episode was bowling with some good pace, proving himself as a stand-out bowler.

That was the highlight of this brilliant programme. It was the opportunity it gives to youngsters who don't know anything about cricket. The perception clearly suggested that cricket is for only the privileged people.

I went to Bedford Modern an independent school during my A- levels. I wanted to become a professional cricketer and the school had amazing facilities. I straight away felt the difference between going to a private school compared to public. The way they talk, dress, and are taught to behave is so different from a state school kid.

You can imagine if you are at a school where there are no facilities and cricket is not a priority during the summer you are going think "it is for the posh people". It was absolutely hilarious when one of the youngsters said: "I am not wearing whites it's ever so posh".

Being from British Asian background playing cricket has a different meaning. After all, it is a national sport of India.

As a youngster I looked up to Bishan Bedi. He was Sikh, left arms spinner, and played for Northamptonshire. So the path was set for me. I knew where I wanted to go and who I wanted to be like. Bishan Bedi looked like me and I tried to bowl like him.

Some of the kids in the programme had never felt what it was like being in a team environment and how you can find some of your best mates on a cricket field.

Freddie, being the great man he is, thought of an idea and said leys give it a go and see if we can make a documentary from it. It was his idea of giving back to society and more importantly creating and providing opportunities to the less privileged. 

He even convinced the local council to fund £200 while he would come up with £50,000 to find a home for his new team.

This programme wasn't so much about cricket, it was about what can be achieved when you work as a team. At the beginning, many of the youngsters hated cricket, but they ended up loving the game.

That was the important message of this amazing series. Cricket clubs bring the community together, it is a safe place to enjoy a social drink with your mates. There is a sense of togetherness and a sense of belonging.

The young children lacked confidence at the beginning of the program. Their behaviour was erratic. Imagine if you are a cricket coach and a talented cricketer sprays water over other teammates, they go for a cigarette because that is what they do on the corner of the street.

Cricket was giving them discipline, a new challenge. The children committed to long practice sessions late into the evening. It gave them a healthier lifestyle in the end half of the players ended up joining the cricket club.

It gave them a sense of identity and thank you Freddie for showing us the problems we have when integrating working class people into cricket.

It was an eye opener and I hope ECB will learn something from the programme and they can bridge the gap, to make cricket accessible to all.

     

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