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~~England must ease Friddie Flint~~s burden~~

Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
 
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London:Mike Gatting, the last England captain to win a Test series in Australia, has implored his former team to ease the burden on captain Andrew Flintoff when the Ashes campaign starts there next month.

Gatting drew parallels between Flintoff and the situation he encountered with his leading all rounder Ian Botham in Australia in 1986-87.

''The management must be very strict with Andrew,'' the former Middlesex batsman told reporters at Lord's. ''One of my worries is that he's a bit like Beefy, he's going to be playing a lot of cricket so he has to get away and relax at times.

''But I hope the likes of Andrew Strauss, his vice captain, will take up a lot of the off-the-field media strains along with coach Duncan Fletcher to give Flintoff the time to stay fresh.

''They must sit down and look at that because that's one of their biggest problems as far as I'm concerned.'' Gatting, who captained England 23 times between 1986 and 1988, said the pressure of having to deliver with bat and ball was difficult enough to cope with.

No Curfew: Unlike Botham in 1986-87, all rounder Flintoff must also shoulder the burden of captaincy.

''On our trip to Australia I said to Beefy: 'Go out and enjoy yourself away from the cricket','' said Gatting, who hit 4,409 runs in 79 Tests at an average of 35.55.

''I wasn't going to put any curfew on him and he wouldn't have stuck to it if I had. You had to give the guy a chance to relax and to do what he needed to do because there's a lot of pressure on people like that.

''Everybody wants to talk to him, see him, get a piece of him and sometimes you just have to say to him: 'Go and relax, do what you want to do when you want to do it'.''

Gatting, speaking at the launch of the three-month tour of Australia by the original Ashes urn, said Flintoff would have learned a valuable lesson from a marathon bowling stint he took on when leading the team against Sri Lanka in May. ''He learned a lot from the first Test at Lord's when he bowled 51 overs in the second innings,'' said Gatting. ''That taught him a very good lesson he won't forget.

''That's the other thing I worry about, that he might over bowl himself or try to take too much on. But I think the lesson has been learned and that the people around him will remind him if he gets too far down that particular line.''

Imposing Character: The 49-year-old Gatting, who will be in Australia combining commentary with hospitality work during the Ashes series which starts next month, described Flintoff's captaincy style as a cross between Michael Vaughan and Nasser Hussain.

''He is quite an imposing character. Michael is laid-back, Nasser was more up front while Freddie is in the middle,'' said Gatting.

''He can growl at you if he wants to but can also put his arm around you and offer some encouragement.'' Gatting is hoping Flintoff will get considerable support on the bowling front from Lancashire paceman Sajid Mahmood.

''Sajid is the one I'll be watching for,'' said Gatting. ''Just as Simon Jones was an integral part of our win at home last year, Sajid is that back-up who needs to be bowling well and firing.

''He has got the capability of doing well, he's got height and pace. If he can get more consistent, I think we've got someone else who can shine.'' The first Test of the five-match Ashes series will be held in Brisbane starting on Nov 23.

Reuters

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