Flintoff named Player of the Year ... again

Andrew Flintoff was named the Professional Cricketers' Association Player of the Year at a glitzy dinner at London's Royal Albert Hall.
Flintoff won the award, which is voted for by all professional cricketers, for the second year in succession. The previous player to win it back-to-back was John Lever in 1978 and 1979.

"It's been massive," Flintoff said. "You have to pinch yourself sometimes. It's been a roller-coaster of emotions. It's been enjoyable, it's been tense, it's been nervy and to come out with the Ashes has been amazing - but at the end I just wished there was another Test to play the following week."

But Flintoff, along with other England cricketers, was keen to let the PCA awards mark the end of English celebrations of a wildly successful summer. He told Sky Sports he was looking forward to the challenge of playing in the subcontinent, against Pakistan and then India, in conditions vastly different from home.

"Pakistan is going to hold new challenges. Having played against Australia, it was hard, and I'm sure Pakistan is going to be equally hard. We're going out to the subcontinent, playing under different conditions foreign to ourselves, and I feel I've got something to prove on the subcontinent. I went out to India a few years ago and I've been to Sri Lanka, and did alright. But I'd like to do well in other parts of the world, not just England."

Flintoff wasn't alone in turning thoughts away from celebrating and towards the challenges that lie ahead. Ashley Giles, who had such a successful series in Pakistan in 2000-01, is expected to play a key role again on pitches that are likely to offer turn. "They've been great but it's the last hurrah. We're back in the gym after this," Giles explained. "I've got an important role to play in the subcontinent, so I have to be ready. I have to be fit and firing. So, the next four weeks are important preparation."

England arrive in Pakistan on October 26 for a tour that includes three Tests and five one-day internationals. They also visit India in February before hosting Sri Lanka and Pakistan next summer. The side then travels to Australia at the end of 2006 where they will attempt to retain the Ashes.
Marcus Trescothick, the vice-captain, said, "There's a lot of cricket to play before then. We are not going to get too far ahead of ourselves. We will take a break, go to Pakistan and move on. We are looking forward to it but we are going to have to work very hard. To beat them in their own countries will be tough."

Matthew Hoggard was similarly wary. "We have got to beat Pakistan and India before we think about going to Australia. They are two very hard sides to beat in their own countries and we are going to have to play well. We have got the capabilities to achieve what we want but we know we have still got to improve in some areas."

With the exceptions of Michael Vaughan, the England captain, Kevin Pietersen and Simon Jones, the majority of the English side were present for the ceremony. And the occasion held enough glitter and glamour for Trescothick, reveling in his new-found status as national hero, to mutter to reporters, "It's the first time I've seen the red carpet out here."

Essex batsman Alastair Cook, 20, who earlier in the month was named the Cricket Writers' Club Young Player of the Year, added the PCA's Young Player of the Year award to his collection.

Ian Botham was named the greatest England cricketer of the last 25 years, while David Shepherd, who retired from umpiring at the weekend, received the England and Wales Cricket Board Special Award.