Andrew Flintoff has told talkSPORT of his sadness at being forced to retire from cricket.
The 32-year-old ended his Test career after helping England regain the Ashes last summer but has now had to turn his back on all forms of cricket due to persistent problems with his right knee.
And, in an exclusive interview with Drive Time, Flintoff admits it has yet to hit home that he will never again be able to play for England or his beloved county Lancashire.
He told Adrian Durham and Darren Gough: “It will probably sink in over the next few days but I’m disappointed because I thought I had a bit more cricket left in me at Lancashire for the next two or three years.
“You play for so long, 17 years at Lancashire, playing for England and it’s the realisation that you’re not going to do it again – it’s not a nice feeling.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play at Lord’s in front of a full house, at Old Trafford and around the world and it’s a massive thing to give up but my hand has been forced. I’ve got a bad knee and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Flintoff played in 79 Tests for England, as well as 140 one-day internationals, and admits he has a host of highlights to look back on.
“Representing Lancashire for the first time stands out, getting my county cap, making my international debut and then the period building up to 2005 was a special one for the England side and myself,” he added.
“Looking back I’m proud it of it because a lot of the times just to get out on a cricket field was a real effort but unfortunately this last injury has beaten me and it’s not going to happen again.”
And the all-rounder has picked out the memorable last 2005 Ashes Test as his most precious memory, when he and close friend Steve Harmison made major contributions as England won back the urn after 16 years in Australia’s possession.
“The last one [stands out]. Just the feeling after all five Test matches. Each one was bigger and better and I’ve got a picture at home of me and Harmy.
“Harmy has got the Ashes in one hand and I’ve got a cigar and it summed up pretty much probably the highlight of my career – sat with one of my best mates having just played a major role with him in an Ashes series.”
Flintoff also hit back at critics who claim he could have made more of his career, insisting he put his body on the line to play for his country.
He added: “I’m not bothered [by critics]. I know what I’ve done. Some people focus on the Test matches I was injured for but I know for me to play 70 odd Tests and the one-day internationals was a real effort.
“I played at times with pankillers and through injury and it is something I will look back on and I’m proud of and more than anything I really enjoyed it on and off the pitch.”