Michael Vaughan has admitted that his international career might be over, and has told his stand-in, Andrew Flintoff, that he can keep the job if he succeeds in leading England to victory in Australia this winter.
"I am the first to admit that if we go to Australia and Freddie retains the Ashes, he should keep the job," Vaughan told reporters at the Groucho Club on Monday night. "I'm there in the background in case they need me as a leader. It's not the be-all and end-all of my career to be captain. I just want to come back and play cricket again."
Vaughan played an inspirational role in England last summer, when the Ashes were recaptured following an 18-year run of defeats, but he has been burdened with a knee injury almost ever since, and missed the entire of the 2006 season.
Speculation has been rife that Vaughan may yet play some role in this winter's contest, with a comeback earmarked for the Boxing Day and New Year Tests. But the man himself was being realistic about his prospects. "If I get back on a cricket pitch, that's quite an achievement," Vaughan added. "There's a small chance that I may play in an Ashes Test, there's also a small chance I might never play again.
"I don't think I've got much chance of the Ashes, to be honest. You never know, but people have got to understand that it's a real, real long shot. I'm only looking at playing my first game in December -- that's a year out of the game, so it's a hell of an ask to be playing an Ashes Test three weeks after that."
Nevertheless, Vaughan plans to be present from the first Test in Brisbane, starting on November 23. "But I won't be training with them," he explained. "I'm there to try to get fit. But I'll be there for a chat if anyone wants a chat or if they want me to say anything."