Andrew Flintoff plans England~~s Ashes defense

Published: Thursday, September 21, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London: Unlike the tour of India where he was ''thrown in at the deep end'' due to regular skipper Michael Vaughan's injury, Andrew Flintoff says he now has the time to plan out things as he prepares to lead the English in their much-anticipated Ashes defense against Australia this November.

Flintoff, who has been named the captain of England's Ashes team despite his ankle injury, said he has matured as a skipper since first leading the side in the sub-continent after Vaughan went back home due to his knee injury.

''I'm passionate about the job and really excited about the prospect of going to Australia and playing in the biggest series in cricket. In contrast to India, when I was thrown in at the deep end, I've got time to think how I'm going to do the job,'' Flintoff told the Daily Telegraph in an interview.

The talismanic all-rounder, under whom the injury-depleted England team managed to draw the Test series but lost the ODIs against India, said he had the side's full support and asserted that he would lead by example.

''I have the respect of the lads. I respect them, I enjoy their company and I'm not going to detach myself too much from them. I won't ask anybody to do anything I wouldn't do myself,'' he said.

Flintoff, who is currently undergoing rehabilitation after a second ankle surgery, also made it clear that he would not make the mistake of over-working his body after coming back from the current injury.

''I don't mind the hard yards, but I've got to keep an eye on my bowling. I learnt my lesson bowling 51 overs in an innings against Sri Lanka. I won't be doing that again,'' he said.

The lanky player also talked about his relationship with best friend Steve Harmison and said the pacer was a calming influence during the tour of India and helped him cope with the responsibility of leading the team.

''Of course we're mates, and I think we help each other. In India he was invaluable. The first session in Nagpur I was running around trying to do everything and he was the one in my ear saying 'calm down'. Harmy's knowledge of the game, the way he thinks about it, is really important,'' the all-rounder elaborated.

The Aussies have become more and more aggressive with their verbal volleys before the big series but Flintoff said he would not want to react to the recent statements by the World Champions about England's injury woes.

''I don't think we can worry about that. We've got to concentrate on what we're doing, how we prepare and play. That's what we can control. What they do is their business,'' he quipped.

Meanwhile, Flintoff's fitness trainer Dave Roberts is pleased with the progress made by the all-rounder in rehabilitation and promised to make his body ''bulletproof'' before the November-series Down Under.

''It's been a sort of mission for me to get him as fit and strong as he can be. I'm trying to get his body absolutely bulletproof before he starts bowling,'' Roberts said.

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