Australia keen to aid Flintoff ahead of Ashes

Published: Tuesday, July 25, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Cricket Australia said it wanted to help English Test stars such as Andrew Flintoff overcome their injuries -- because it would make defeating them to reclaim the Ashes so much sweeter.

England has been plagued with injuries since claiming the Ashes for the first time in 18 years last September, with all-rounder Flintoff the latest sidelined as he undergoes surgery on a troublesome ankle.

England chairman of selectors David Graveney has suggested Flintoff and injured spinner Ashley Giles play club cricket in Australia to regain match fitness before the touring squad arrives in Australia in November.

Cricket Australia (CA) had no reservations about aiding its oldest enemy, enthusiastically embracing the prospect of "Freddy" Flintoff playing club cricket Down Under.

"We have a burning ambition to win back the Ashes, there's a vacant spot in our trophy cabinet, but we want to do it against a full strength, fully fit England side," CA spokesman Peter Young told AFP.

"We would hate to have a hollow victory against a touring second XI."

Young said Australian and English fans had made the upcoming tour a sellout and CA wanted to repay their faith by trying to ensure they saw the best players performing during the series.

He also revealed Australian cricket clubs were falling over themselves to secure the services of Flintoff, the player-of-the-series in the last Ashes clash.

"We've already had a number of inquiries from clubs, " he said.

"Australian cricket is excited about the possibility he will play here. It would be tremendous experience for a club player to be on the same side, or to play against, someone of Flintoff's stature in the game."

Injuries have also sidelined Flintoff's fellow Ashes-winning bowlers Ashley Giles (hip) and Simon Jones (knee), who could also seek match practice in Australia.

However, some Australian newspaper are already questioning whether England should be offered any assistance, with Sydney's Daily Telegraph asking readers "should we be helping the enemy?".

Young was unfazed by such questions.

"Cricket is a game that generates a great deal of passion among the public and obviously some people will think this is not a good idea," he said.

"We happen to think it is."

He said CA had received no approach from English cricketing authorities and arranging club cricket contracts was a matter for individual players.

The first Ashes Test begins in Brisbane on November 23.

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