Warne backs Flintoff to prioritise Ashes

Shane Warne believes Andrew Flintoff will not participate in the IPL if it jeopardises his involvement in this year's Ashes. Warne, who ended his international career with Australia's 5-0 win in the 2006-07 Ashes, said Flintoff will be key to England's hopes of beating Australia, and was confident that the allrounder would ensure he is 100% fit for the five-Test contest in July-August.

Concerns have risen over Flintoff's three-week stint in the IPL in April after he injured his hip during the third Test against West Indies in Antigua and was ruled out of the fourth in Barbados. Flintoff, though, has insisted he will be fit for the Indian Twenty20 tournament - he's been contracted for a record annual US$1.55 million fee with Chennai Super Kings. The ECB has indicated it could block Flintoff's participation in the league if they felt it would be a risk to his fitness ahead of a busy home summer.

Warne, though, felt England need not worry. "The Ashes will be the most important thing to Andrew Flintoff," Warne told Sky Sports News. "If the IPL is going to jeopardise him playing for England in the Ashes, then I don't think Andrew Flintoff will go to the IPL. He'll make sure he's 100% fit. If he thinks he's fit and he wants to go and play in the IPL, no problem at all."

He predicted a grim outcome for England if Flintoff is unavailable. "England need Andrew Flintoff to play in the Ashes to have a chance," Warne said. "If Flintoff doesn't play in the Ashes series 2009, Australia will win, no doubt about it."

Warne quit international cricket at the end of the Australia's 5-0 sweep last Ashes in Australia in 2006-07, and captained the Rajasthan Royals to the inaugural IPL championship last year.