It would appear the English cricketers are hoping fearsome reputations will make Australia’s Ashes squad quake sufficiently to overlook the tourists’ lack of form or fitness.
The English squad for the series that is set to dominate the Australian sporting summer was announced overnight and the appointment of Andrew Flintoff as captain is a choice of faith.
Flintoff, it should be remembered, only briefly shone as captain for six Tests (after Michael Vaughan did a knee) before he succumbed to ankle surgery way back in July. “Freddy” hasn’t played since. He is apparently pencilled in to edge his way back into cricket – initially as a non-bowling batsman – at next month’s Champions Trophy.
So while our skipper, Ricky Ponting, was yesterday clubbing the West Indian attack in a Kuala Lumpur one-dayer, fresh from skipping through a pre-Ashes commando course in the Queensland bush, Flintoff was being named captain while wondering if he will be able to play shots off his front and back feet without pain.
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But that’s not what naming Flintoff as captain is about. Clearly the Poms are hoping all anybody in Australia can remember is big Andy throwing thunderbolts and blazing centuries to spearhead the unthinkable Ashes loss last time around, in England.
The big debate at the selection table was reportedly whether Flintoff or Andrew Strauss, the choice for captain in Freddy’s absence, should be the skipper.
Strauss said all the right things as everybody sweated on the announcement, telling the BBC:
I’ve really enjoyed doing the job, there’s no doubt about that, and certainly I’d like to do the job in the future. It’s not about myself and Andrew Flintoff. It’s about an England team going to Australia this winter, very keen to take those Ashes home with us again, and to play the sort of cricket we need to do to win.
It’s not about the personalities involved, it’s about the selectors picking the guy that they think is the right man for the job, the guy that’s going to lead the team in Australia and make sure we retain those Ashes.
Former England all-rounder Dominic Cork disagreed, saying it was all about personalities, which is why Strauss needed to be replaced.
“He (Flintoff) will be a more attacking captain than Andrew Strauss and will be better under pressure,” Cork said. “I fear that Strauss may become a negative captain at difficult times.”
And so it begins. The English also chose Ashley Giles and James Anderson who are returning from long injury stints. Giles hasn’t played all year.