Flintoff fearing attack of homesickness in Pakistan

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The Independent Online

Flintoff admitted yesterday during a book signing session in London of his autobiography Being Freddie that he might find it hard to leave his pregnant wife Rachael and daughter Holly behind when he heads off for Pakistan next Wednesday.

"It is not ideal leaving the family behind," said Flintoff, 27. "I've never spent more than four nights in a row away from Holly.

"Everyone is talking about Harmy being homesick but I think he is going to have to look after me on this tour."

And that would merely mean Harmison repaying a long-standing debt to Flintoff from their England Under 19 days. Flintoff was captain of the tour to Pakistan in 1996-97 when Harmison pined for his Ashington home from the outset.

The Durham man approached Flintoff in the middle of one night and begged to be allowed home. Flintoff told him to give it another week, and if he still felt bad then Harmison would be allowed to return to England. And that is what transpired. That simple action proved to be the start of a close friendship between the two men.

It also illustrated another dimension to Flintoff's leadership qualities, compassion and understanding.

He was certainly not hiding his ambitions yesterday. "If the chance to captain England ever came up I'd leap at it," he said. "At the moment Vaughany is doing an unbelievable job, but if - a few years down the line - there was a chance then it's obviously something you'd have to be interested in."

Flintoff did admit that life in the United Kingdom is not what it was before the Ashes series. "Everything has been a bit strange," he said. "Although I can still go out and have a drink and a chat with my mates, what has been noticeable is the press attention.

"If you go out to the shops there's cameras following you, they are outside the house, they are with you when you go to the supermarket.

"It is annoying, but it is a new experience. At first I wasn't sure what to do or how to react. You try to do everyday things but it's hard when someone is poking a camera in your face and following you everywhere. It's been a strange thing."

And homesick or not perhaps that is why Flintoff is happy to go to Pakistan and leave this "alien" homeland behind for a while. "I'm looking forward to getting a bat in my hand again.

"Pakistan is a place where I have not done particularly well," he explained, "but I know what the country is like. I know what the conditions are like and I will be wanting to go out there and perform well."

He is not alone in that. Family and friends, team-mates and a whole nation will be waiting for further heroics from Flintoff on a similar scale to his Ashes feats.

* Pakistan and England will make early starts to their first two Tests next month in Multan and Faisalabad to overcome weather-related problems. The first two Tests will have a 9.30 a.m (0430 GMT) start and end at 4.30 p.m.

* The Pakistan all-rounder Abdul Razzaq is likely to miss the first test because of an elbow injury. The 25-year-old Razzaq has played in 37 tests and 196 one-day internationals.