So, this is how it's ending... Patrick Kidd caught up with Andrew Flintoff this week, and it was hard not to feel that the world has moved very slightly away from the big fella.
This can't have been the life he foresaw as a young and uncomplicated lad; the last of his playing days being seen out in the exile of Dubai, a city that, it's too tempting not to point out, now glitters with unfulfilled promise. He couldn't, he says, find a bar that was showing England's T20 final, so he had to catch the highlights the next morning on the TV at the gym. He listened to the Australia-Pakistan semi on a radio in a cab. He could hardly have been more separate from it all.
He is still making the right noises about his comeback, but even if he makes it - and Fred knows it's if not when - what exactly is he coming back to? England have left him behind now, and the momentum of the T20 game as a whole is forwards. There is talk of a contract to play T20 in Australia, of the IPL next year, but what would that make him, apart from a few quid better off? A mercenary from Dubai? He played in IPL II and was by his own admission exposed.
Maybe it's sentimental to say so, but it doesn't seem fitting, or right for him. Perhaps his real end was that last day at the Oval, even if it doesn't turn out to be so. Ian Botham, who cast the longest shadow over Flintoff's career, finished up at Durham on a nondescript day, running up to bowl with his tackle hanging out, for a joke. It's not how he's remembered [thank god for that], and his real career had come to an end some time before, but he was at home, where he was loved, and it was quite funny. Better a finish like that than the soullessness that seems to be stalking Andrew Flintoff.