The Wednesday Interview - Phil DeFreitas June 8, 2005

'I'm sad that we haven't won the Ashes for so long'

He is England's last active player to have won an Ashes series when, nearly 20 years ago in 1986-87, they defeated Australia 2-1. Now Phil DeFreitas tells Cricinfo that England have every chance of regaining the urn. But, of course, there's an if.

Phil DeFreitas: "I had my high on my first tour" © Getty Images

Does it depress you that you are the last active English player to have won an Ashes series?
[Laughs] Does it make me feel old? Is that what you're saying? I feel very proud to be honest but, also, in another sense, I'm sad that we haven't won the Ashes for so long.

Everyone seems to have written off England, but can this current side regain the urn?
I think we've got every chance. We've got a very good team, a good leader, a good coach. The team has been playing together for a while; they're on a winning trail and they should be on a high. We have got every chance. I couldn't think of any better chance of winning the Ashes. But, saying that, Australia are a very good unit.

Who will be the key player if England are to have a chance?
I think everyone in the side needs to perform - it's not just about an individual, it's everyone from one to 11. It needs everyone to be at the top of their game, everyone to perform to their level. I don't think we can pick on certain players to perform for us, it has to be everyone.

Even so, every team has someone who can add that extra magic. Who do you think can do this for England?
Andrew Flintoff is a very dynamic and powerful player. On his day he can play as well as anyone in the world. It's good to have him back on board and let's hope he has a fantastic series.

There have been uncertainties about Michael Vaughan's place in the batting line-up. Where do you think he should bat?
I think Michael Vaughan knows his best position, I'm sure the coach knows his best position. That's why he's England captain and they will make the decisions.

What do you think of the fact that Bangladesh were England's warm-up for the Ashes?
A Test match is a Test match. They had two Tests against Bangladesh and they destroyed them in three days in one and two-and-a-bit in the other. You can't just see it as practice, it's a chance to get into a winning habit and get that killer instinct, and that's what they've done. Whatever Test match it is, they've performed, they've done the job and that's what matters really.

What do you think England's strategy will be against Adam Gilchrist?
I'm sure England have got their plans. He's just a fantastic cricketer. He's taken wicketkeeping-batting to a whole new level. He's a fantastic player, but he's not the only one in the Australian side. They've got fantastic cricketers - Shane Warne, Gillespie, McGrath. Then you look at the batting line-up. My team-mate [at Leicestershire last season] Brad Hodge can't get into the side and I feel that Brad Hodge would play for any other Test nation. He is in the tour party, but that shows the quality of the Australians. They're just a fantastic team.

Do Australia have any weaknesses?
I don't think they have but, to be honest, I don't think England have either. It's on the day - how we perform over the five Test matches and they perform. It's going to be a great battle, a fantastic series and it's going to be the best cricketers in the world on display. It will be fantastic cricket to watch.

How did it feel to win the Ashes with England in Australia in 1986-87?
Well, I was 20 years old, on tour to Australia, playing with the likes of Botham, Gower, Lamby and allsorts. It was just amazing. I said at the end of the tour: "People talk about having their highs in international cricket, I had my high on my first tour and from then on everything is going to be downhill!" It was a fantastic time in my career, and it was the start of my career.

What about the other highlights?
There have been so many moments in my career that have been highlights. I played in two losing World Cup finals, but the Ashes-winning tour would be up there with the best.

Now you are playing for Leicestershire Second XI. What are your plans for the future?
I'm going into coaching. I'm still contracted with Leicestershire until the end of the year, but I am heading towards the coaching side of it. The game has made me who I am, so it's important to give something back.

Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo