Forthright Flintoff underlines his commitment to England

All-rounder points to the pain he endured in the Ashes as an example of his dedication to his country's cause, reports Robin Scott-Elliot

Andrew Flintoff has robustly rejected any doubts over his commitment to England. Having provided the ECB with the requested guarantee of his availability, the all-rounder yesterday pointedly stressed the sacrifices he made to help England win the Ashes and said that nobody can question his motivation to play for his country.

Flintoff is still in the early stages of rehabilitation after his latest knee operation and has yet to set any date for a return, but when he is fit – at best next spring – the 31-year-old will have England as his unassailable priority. There will, he says, be no "picking and choosing" of games.

"Over this last Ashes summer some of the things I did to get on that cricket field... I don't think my motives can ever be questioned. It was a struggle towards the end," said Flintoff, who played in growing discomfort through four of the five Tests. "I'll do everything I can to get back in the England side. I'm not picking and choosing."

Since Flintoff refused to sign an incremental central contract, offered following his decision to retire from Tests and concentrate on the one-day game, questions have been asked over his priorities. Would he elevate the financial rewards of the IPL above international duties? "I'll be available for every [England] game," said Flintoff at the launch of his autobiography, Ashes to Ashes. "In an ideal world I'd still be playing Test cricket but when you've had six operations in four years you know enough's enough. [Going freelance] is different to the norm so it was always going to be greeted in different ways. Playing for England remains the ultimate – fortunately I've still got that chance. Obviously I want to play in the IPL and for Lancashire as well. I'm comfortable with it. I know my reasons for doing it – I want to be the best one-day player in the world and I have got the opportunity to do that. I want to play for England as long as I possibly can."

Flintoff remains someway from actually playing for England again. He is still on crutches and in November will undergo a scan to discover whether the operation on his right knee has been a success. "I won't really know until I start playing again," he said. "The chances are good. I'm hopeful. I'll be on crutches for 12 weeks. I think I've spent about a year of my life on crutches – in the past four years I've spent over two years doing rehab."

It may be a state that he has become wearily accustomed to, but familiarity has not made rehab any easier to cope with. It is empty time, something Flintoff clearly struggles with, moments when the doubts can kick in. "I've three young kids – I'm stuck on the couch pointing crutches and shouting at them," he said. "The first two weeks were the hardest. When I got home it felt like everything was happening in the outside world and I was just sat on my couch. I had a lot of time to think, firstly about the rehab and what it's going to be like, and secondly to get my head around not playing Test cricket. I've dealt with that in some sort of way but this winter when the lads are playing in South Africa it will hit home properly."

Yet after more than a decade and 79 games in the Test side, he remains adamant that he has made the right decision. "When I announced my retirement it was a big release," said Flintoff of his decision ahead of the Lord's Test in July. "I was able to go out and enjoy the moment and that's how I intend to play the rest of my career. I've had times when it's been tough and that's helped me. As bad as some of the times have been it's been a massive learning curve. I wouldn't be on these crutches If I didn't think there's more to come. I love playing cricket so I'm going to give myself every chance to comeback."

Flintoff aims to play on beyond the 2011 World Cup, but injury will leave its legacy when he does retire. "I've been told I'm going to suffer from arthritis. Other things have been mentioned – knee replacements... I'm hoping for advances in medical science," he says, a grin spreading across his face.

But he will go on, and go on in his own way, ignoring advice to temper the vigor with which he approaches every game – such as reining his bowling back into a more containing style – in order to lessen the pressure on his battered body. "I can't do it. I always have to run in and let it go," he said. "There's no compromising."

How Harmison helped Freddie win the Ashes

It was a word from Steve Harmison that helped Andrew Flintoff deliver one of the most telling blows against Australia en route to the Ashes – the destruction of Phillip Hughes, their rising star. "We were watching Harmy bowling to Hughes [for England Lions] and when Harmy hit him on the head first ball it was a huge lift," said Flintoff. "Before Cardiff he told me how to get him out – 'if you come round the wicket it will take six balls'. It took about nine..." Flintoff dismissed Hughes twice in three innings before the Australian was dropped.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
tech
Sport
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
sport
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
Sport
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
News
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral