Injured Flintoff to head home
Andrew Flintoff will return home from the tour of West Indies later on Friday to continue his rehabilitation from the hip injury that forced him to miss the fourth Test in Barbados. The decision rules him out of the final Test in Trinidad but it is hoped he will return on March 10, ahead of the one-off Twenty20 international and one-day series.
The injury to his right hip has also been upgraded to a tear after it was initially diagnosed as a strain. He will now work alongside his long-term fitness advisor David Roberts as well as the ECB's chief medical officer Nick Pierce. "It's desperately frustrating. It's one thing after another but there's not a great deal I can do about it. Just got to get fit and come back," Flintoff said.
He picked up his latest problem in Antigua and bowled through the pain on the final day, sending down 12 overs as England pushed for a series-levelling victory that was denied by West Indies' final pair.
"I was in discomfort all the way through," he said. "Whether it made it worse or not I'm not quite sure. I felt a bit of a niggle in Jamaica, more tightness than anything, then in Antigua it started to get worse during the game."
Flintoff will spend time back at Lancashire where he will work with the Old Trafford medical staff and Peter Moores, who is now coach. "We feel as though his rehabilitation would be best served by him going back home," said Hugh Morris, managing director England cricket. "It is something we have done with Andrew before when he was recovering from his ankle injury.
"Being around the England team environment can be something of a goldfish bowl and by returning home he can concentrate on receiving some intensive treatment," he added. "Clearly getting him fit for the one-day internationals is our priority and focus. A muscle tear is a muscle tear and time is a key ingredient in this."
This is the second injury he has suffered on the tour. He picked up a side strain in the opening week and was pulled out of the first warm-up match but recovered in time to take his place in the first Test in Kingston.
The issue of Flintoff's fitness isn't restricted to his England position but also his participation in the Indian Premier League, where he is due to have a three-week spell with the Chennai Super Kings in April. The ECB, and specifically Morris, could be faced with a tough decision if Flintoff's recovery is slower than expected, especially with the Ashes looming.
"Everyone is going about the IPL and it's a hot topic at the moment, but I want to play for England in the one-day series," Flintoff said. "The IPL is still a few weeks away and will take care of itself. Playing for England is the ultimate. It's [the Ashes] something I desperately want to be involved in and I'm not going to do anything that will jeopardise that."
Morris added that the ECB are hoping to retain a certain level of control over the fitness of players in the IPL. "We have contracts with the 18 counties whereby we set up minimum provisions for our centrally contracted players. We would like that kind of relationship with the IPL franchises who have our players so that we will make the right level in place," he said.
England have already added cover to their squad after calling Ravi Bopara and Amjad Khan from the Lions tour of New Zealand with Bopara was named in the XI for Barbados.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo