The reactions to the announcement of England’s Ashes squad are flowing in, with plenty of eyebrows raised over the appointment of Freddie Flintoff as captain, as the all-rounder comes back from a long injury and already faces a massive workload in the series.
But most English media seem to agree that in terms of backbone, temperament and nous, Freddie is the right choice.
Surprisingly the man himself was defending whether he was even a cricketer to the good old London Sun. “I keep reading and hearing that I’ve become a celebrity. But, as far as I’m concerned, I’m a cricketer,” Flintoff was reported to have said. So that’s that cleared up.
The Guardian’s Mike Selvey says a bigger issue than Flintoff’s workload and leadership is the sheer number of players England will have in Australia for the summer, writing that Cecil B De Mille would have been “emerald with envy” at such a cast. The English squad numbers 16 but there will also be an Academy squad of 14 lurking in case England is again hit by a rash of injuries.
That is not such a bad thing, though, given the mess that England got themselves into last time Down Under when, in a fit of blind optimism that they might have something to offer, two players, Andrew Flintoff and Darren Gough, were taken who were not so much unfit as on day-release from the knacker’s yard. Neither made the cut, and from that sprang the appointment of a medical officer to oversee injury and ensure that such a situation should not pertain again.
Well not quite, anyway. The party named yesterday contains five players who currently have physical or, in one case, mental problems.
Australia’s skipper, Ricky Ponting, queried both Flintoff’s selection and England choosing so many injured players, but he has his own worries. After being fined for dissent this week, Ponting could miss a Test if he continues to challenge the umpires during the summer.
Shane Warne, writing in The Times, says the English squad will be fit when it matters, saying: “I can’t see why this (unfit selections) is such an issue. By my reckoning the first Test is ten weeks away and with the cricket ahead, the break could be the best thing for the likes of Ashley Giles and Steve Harmison. They will come in fresh and raring to go.”