~~England can retain Ashes without Vaughan~~

Published: Sunday, July 9, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:An injury-depleted England, sans regular captain Michael Vaughan, would find life difficult against their revenge-thirsty hosts in Australia this winter but the die-hard optimist in Nasser Hussain believes it may actually work in favour of the Poms with the pressure of expectations off their shoulder.

Hussain, however, admitted that Vaughan's absence would weaken the side, especially with the Aussies eyeing an Ashes revenge at home but warned England could not be written off.

''In a funny sort of way, it takes the pressure off the side because everyone is writing them off now.

''England generally play better cricket when people are writing them off,'' the former England captain told BBC Five Live.

On Vaughan, who misses the series following a fourth operation on his troublesome knee, Hussain said, ''He was 15, 20 per cent towards the reason why England won the Ashes last time.

''When all of us round the country couldn't breathe for about a month, wishing and hoping that England would win the Ashes, our leader was out in the middle keeping calm and keeping relaxed. I think that was his greatest asset,'' he said.

''He's also going to be missed as a player. On the last tour out there, he was arguably the best player on either side, and he played with flair and style,'' Hussain added.

He also backed the idea of England continuing with the injured Vaughan as their official captain, even though Flintoff will be skippering the squad until early next year.

''For me, loyalty is the most important thing in cricket and that's where (coach Duncan) Fletcher has been incredibly good with his players. There's a loyalty in both directions.

''Michael Vaughan is having these knee problems because of what he's given to England over the last four or five years. England should pay him back by keeping him as captain for as long as it is a feasible situation,'' he explained.

England would need a drawn series to retain the Ashes and Hussain has full confidence in Flintoff's leadership.

''Previous captains, (including) myself, were always asking a lot of Andrew Flintoff and now we're asking incredible things of him - be an all-rounder, go to Australia, captain England, have a benefit year, have a young family, it's going to be a hard time.

''But if anyone can do it, Andrew Flintoff can. He's shown as a player that he rises to the occasion and apart from maybe one day at Lord's, he's been exemplary as a captain,'' Hussain added.

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