Flintoff reveals his big Ashes mistake

Former England skipper opens up about being handed the captaincy ahead of 2006-07 Ashes tour

Andrew Flintoff believes he should never have accepted the Test captaincy ahead of England's disastrous Ashes tour of Australia in 2006-07, and had he been in control of selections, he wouldn't have picked "four or five at least" of his fellow squad members.

Flintoff, whose team was on the wrong end of a 0-5 whitewash as Australia bounced back from their shock 2-1 defeat in the classic 2005 Ashes, likened the build-up to his appointment of captain as "almost like The Voice or The X-Factor", such was the public scrutiny that accompanied it.

The allrounder had been the pivotal figure in England's historic success 18 months earlier, but admitted he would have been better served continuing in a deputy role to Andrew Strauss, who had led the side in Flintoff's absence earlier in 2006 during a series victory at home to Pakistan.

"Looking back, if I could change one moment of my career – and in some ways, I'm going to contradict myself, because I'm glad I did it – but what it would be was taking the England captaincy before the 2006-07 tour of Australia," he told BBC Radio.

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"I'm glad I did it in some ways ... I found a lot out about myself.

"When I took the captaincy for that Ashes tour, there was something not quite right about it – it wasn't right.

"I remember being in Portugal, I was on one of these warm weather training things ... I was training hard and in constant contact with the selectors.

"And it was almost like The Voice or The X-Factor, where it's almost like a public vote – am I captain, am I not captain?

"I'm thinking, 'If you want me as captain, just tell me, and I'll crack on with it. But there's an element of doubt in this'."

Flintoff originally replaced '05 Ashes-winning captain Michael Vaughan on a stand-in basis due to Vaughan's ongoing injury problems, however when he too was injured, Strauss filled in admirably.

The opening batsman, now the ECB director of cricket, later led England to a 3-1 Ashes success Down Under in 2010-11, however he was initially overlooked for Flintoff when Vaughan missed the entire 2006 season as well as the Australia tour that followed.

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Flintoff, who was riding a wave of public support after his Ashes heroics the previous year, in which he'd scored 402 runs and taken 24 wickets in a remarkable all-round display, admitted he had hesitations about taking on the captaincy from the outset.

"I remember I got unveiled as captain, we went down to The Oval (in London) ... I was stood there, doing the press, thinking, 'I'm not sure this is right – I am captain of a side (and) I have had no control who is on this side'.

"I'm looking at my team thinking, 'I probably wouldn't have four or five of you at least'.

"So I've got no control over the captaincy, (and) personally, I don't know how I'm playing, because I've been injured for so long – my sole focus has been getting fit.

"Andrew Strauss, to be fair, has been doing a decent job.

"So at that point, I should have trusted my instincts a little more. I got wrapped up in it, everyone was asking (about the captaincy), and you're meant to say, 'Oh yeah, I want to be captain'."

The 39-year-old added that it is only with the benefit of hindsight that he's realised he was a more effective presence in the England set-up as a leader through actions as opposed to owning the official title, and was better placed in a supporting role to the captain.

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"I realised, probably afterwards, my best role in the team was, I could lead through performance and be a good right-hand man for the captain, not necessarily taking the armband," he said.

"For the side to be successful, I had to be playing well, and I had to be fit.

"At that point in time, I wasn't, and with the captaincy as well, as the tour went on, it just got worse."

The ill-fated tour Down Under was Flintoff's last as national captain in both Tests and ODIs, despite England winning the 50-over tri-series that followed the Ashes humbling.

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First Test Gabba, November 23-27

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night)

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