|Player:||A Flintoff, Wasim Akram|
DateLine: 3rd October 2006
Andrew Flintoff faces a difficult time as England captain in next month's Ashes in Australia, his long-time friend and former Pakistan cricket great Wasim Akram said Monday.
Australia, raring to avenge their last year's Ashes defeat in England, start as huge favourites to clinch back the coveted urn in the Ashes starting with the first Test in Brisbane from November 23.
"The choice of Flintoff as captain is good but I fear he will be leading a losing team in the forthcoming Ashes. The Australians are going to crush England and only an extraordinary performance can avert the outcome," Wasim told AFP.
Wasim, who tipped Flintoff to be a world class allrounder when both lined up for English county Lancashire in late 1990s, hoped his former teammate could mature as a captain.
"Flintoff is an inspirational cricketer and leads from the front which is a good quality for a captain, but only the upcoming Ashes will mature him," said Wasim, who led Pakistan in 25 Tests and 109 one-day matches.
Wasim took 414 Test and a world record 502 one-day wickets and skippered in a similar style to Flintoff, who guided England to a 2-1 Ashes win last year, scoring over 400 runs and taking 40 wickets.
Wasim said responsibility will bring the best out of Flintoff.
"Every cricketer aspires for captaincy and players like Flintoff excel with responsibility on their shoulders. But he and the England team will have to be ruthless to defend the Ashes, which I fear Australia might not allow them to be.
"I had two tours of Australia as captain and realised that they play very tough on their home grounds. I know their wickets and they are very hard for newcomers to adjust on," said Wasim who lost 2-1 in 1995 and 3-0 in 1999.
Wasim said England's injury problems will mount in the Ashes.
"They (England) are already without their key batsman Michael Vaughan and effective paceman Simon Jones and they might lose some other players through injury in the early part of the tour," said Wasim.
"For me Australia are huge favourites and they would be at their worst if they lose."
(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)