London: The war for Ashes 2009 has begun with Australian captain Ricky Ponting firing the first salvo, questioning whether England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff will be any good this summer.
Flintoff underwent knee surgery in April and has not yet started running properly. He sustained the injury in the megabucks Indian Premier League in South Africa.
Freddie was the hero of England''s Ashes triumph over Australia in 2005 but he was a shadow of that player in 2006-07 when he captained England to a 5-0 defeat after recovering from one of his several ankle operations.
Ponting, who was speaking at Trent Bridge as the Aussies began a four-month tour that starts with the World Twenty20, was quoted by The Sun as saying: "Flintoff is obviously important to England''s make-up, but, as we saw in 2007, his impact is not there if he is not 100 per cent fit."
Taking a minor dig at batsman Kevin Pietersen as well, Ponting said: "I don''t know how bad Pietersen''s Achilles problem is, either. They could face something similar with him as well."
"With Flintoff and Pietersen, there was obviously a great incentive to play with the amount of money they went for. Am I pleased they''re injured? Ha, ha. I don''t know the full extent of their injuries," Ponting said.