England's ODI success September 6, 2008

'This side has great potential' - Flintoff

Cricinfo staff


Andrew Flintoff: "One of the big things he [Kevin Pietersen] has passed on to the side so far is confidence" © Getty Images
 

Andrew Flintoff says he's enjoying playing in a new, winning England set-up under a confident Kevin Pietersen. Flintoff was the leading run-getter and wicket-taker in England's 4-0 triumph ODI over South Africa, and feels the present ODI team is a well-balanced outfit that could turn into a champion side given a decent run.

"I've played in three World Cups and in each one of them, a week before the tournament began England didn't know its best side and there was loads of chopping and changing," Flintoff was quoted as saying on the ECB website. "I'm sure if these lads are allowed to play with each other over a length of time, I think that's the way they'll develop into a really good team."

England are yet to win a World Cup - they reached the final in 1979, 1987 and 1992 - or the Champions Trophy, where they reached the final when hosting the tournament in 2004 and lost to West Indies. But Flintoff was bullish on the future. "We've got all bases covered and when you've got Luke Wright coming in to bat at No. 8 that's a strong line-up," he said. "Everything is there but it's been there in the past so it's more about a mindset or a confidence thing, which I'm sure this side will get from Kevin.

"One of the big things he has passed on to the side so far is confidence. He's a confident lad and I think that's started to rub off on to quite a few of the players. When you see the way he goes about his business, especially towards his own game, no matter how good a player you are you can still watch and learn from that."

What's needed now, Flintoff said, is for this team to be given time. "If we're allowed to play together over a long period of time and allowed to grow together then this side has great potential."

With the postponement of the Champions Trophy, England's next scheduled ODI will only be in December, when they take on India for a seven-match series. "We're on a roll against South Africa and it would have been great to take that form into a tournament," Flintoff said. "The Champions Trophy is not the biggest tournament we could win but I remember when we got to the final in England a few years ago [2004] and everyone was gutted we didn't win it, so we'll have to take that form to India now instead."

Flintoff, who has led England in the past, said he was content with his role in this squad. "I think I've found my perfect role within the side," Flintoff said. "I've had a go at captaincy and I think now in my own way I can lead. Kevin is obviously the captain and he's in charge, but I can help by passing on some of the things I've learnt to the younger lads, especially the bowlers, and I can be there for Kevin to give advice if he needs it.

 
 
One of the things I was determined to do when I came back into international cricket was that I wanted to enjoy it. I knew there was going to be pressure on me but cricket's not life or death, it's a game and it's to be enjoyed. Possibly for a period I lost that enjoyment
 

"It also allows me to get on with my game as well. Kev has spoken to me and a few of the senior players about getting involved and helping and I'm keen to do that, and this role I've been given now is one I feel very comfortable with."

Flintoff, who hadn't played a Test for nearly 18 months and an ODI for almost a year, said he learnt a lot during his time away from international cricket. "I think I'm a better cricketer for those dark times and a better person," Flintoff said. "When you experience tough times, the better times are that much sweeter.

"I was sitting on the balcony at Lord's the other day after we'd won and one of the lads asked if I'd enjoyed it," he said. "I'd been through a whole host of things just to be sitting there with a Man-of-the-Match award and playing for a side that's 4-0 up in a series against South Africa, so I just couldn't stop smiling.

Ankle injuries had threatened to curtail Flintoff's career: he's needed four operations to fix the problem. "It's a complete reversal from six months ago and I suppose that all goes back to enjoyment and I'm absolutely loving it at the moment.

"One of the things I was determined to do when I came back into international cricket was that I wanted to enjoy it," he said. "I knew there was going to be pressure on me but cricket's not life or death, it's a game and it's to be enjoyed. Possibly for a period I lost that enjoyment."

Flintoff's successful return sees him in the No. 1 spot among ODI allrounders in the ICC players rankings. "I'm in a privileged position because I'm playing cricket for England but I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts and it always helps when you're doing well, but I'm in a very good place at the moment."