Flintoff undaunted by prospect of captaincy
Andrew Flintoff has brushed aside, nonchalantly, concerns that the captaincy at home against Sri Lanka next week will be an added burden to his burgeoning list of roles within the England team.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed that Michael Vaughan will definitely miss next week's first Test and David Graveney, chairman of selectors, hinted yesterday that Flintoff is likely to take over as captain, continuing from where he left off in India. But Graveney also acknowledged that Flintoff's workload is a concern.
Flintoff though was excited about the prospect of captaining at home. "I got an opportunity in India which I enjoyed but to do it at the home of cricket would be fantastic. I enjoy being involved in the game and it's been quite an easy side to captain - captaining your country can't be a burden.
"It's been great fun to be honest. The lads all know their jobs and get on with their business and help me out whenever possible. When fielding at slip when I haven't been captain, I've still been thinking about the game. So there's no great change there and I enjoy the responsibility and being involved in the game.
"It's something I enjoyed rather than feared. Being England captain can't be a burden, it's a fantastic job and something I've always wanted to do since I was a kid. To get the opportunity to do it in India was great fun. Burden is very much the wrong word."
Steve Harmison's absence has also been confirmed by the ECB for the first Test as selectors meet on Sunday to announce England's squad. Graveney said only players who featured in at least one four-day Championship game would be considered. Neither Vaughan nor Harmison has played since returning from India. Vaughan has started running and batting in the nets was not named in the Yorkshire side playing Sussex at Headingley, while Durham, Harmison's county, have no Championship game this week.
Vaughan's India tour ended early with a knee injury and Harmison left before the third Test with a shin problem. The squad to face Sri Lanka at Lord's will be named on Sunday, four days before the match begins.
England do have options in their batting at least. Paul Collingwood stood in for Vaughan in Pakistan and India, scoring a maiden Test century in the first Test in Nagpur and a couple of half-centuries in Lahore the Test before. Alastair Cook hit a debut century in the same Nagpur Test and is also pushing for a place in the final XI.
Sajid Mahmood meanwhile, who is widely tipped to make his Test debut as a replacement for one of England's injured pacemen, has said he is ready to play at Test level now. Mahmood was quoted by BBC Sport saying, "I'd like to think I'm ready for it. I bowled well in the West Indies on the England A tour. It would be a dream come true, especially to play it in England, at Lord's as well. I've wanted that since I was about eight years old."
Mahmood was picked to play in the England A game against Sri Lanka but was withdrawn in a move interpreted as England not wanting the tourists to see him in action. He played for Lancashire instead, against Kent at Old Trafford, bowling 21 overs for 55 runs and a solitary wicket.
Mahmood said he was aware of the extra attention. "It was in the back of my mind that I've got to perform well. The first over or so I was thinking, I've got to do this or got to do that, but then I thought, if I'm going to think about that I'm going to put pressure on myself. So I just sort of put it to the back of my mind and tried to relax and do what you normally do - just to try and do my best and see what happens."