Flintoff poses India challenge
Andrew Flintoff has urged the younger members of England's one-day squad to relish the experiences of the next few weeks as they embark on a gruelling seven-match one-day series against India.
England's 30-year-old all-rounder is aware how difficult a tour of India can be with an intense schedule of seven matches all in different venues in just 19 days coupled with the scrutiny of a cricket-loving nation often contributing to younger players becoming intimidated by the experience.
With six players in the current squad - Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Samit Patel, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann and Luke Wright - experiencing their first senior tour in India, England's fortunes could rest on how they adapt to the experience.
But rather than become intimidated by the massive interest and scrutiny in their every performance, Flintoff has advised the younger players to grasp the opportunity to perform on one of cricket's biggest stages.
"I think the big thing about touring India is to remain open-minded," explained 30-year-old Flintoff. "You've got to embrace it and enjoy it and the position I'm in now I'm probably better suited to do that than I was when I was 21.
"As a cricketer you want to play in front of big crowds. I remember my first experience of India was walking out in front of 80,000 at Eden Gardens and that is an experience you have to enjoy and I want to do that again this time.
"I think any cricketer wants to do well in India, especially so against this current team. We've seen the way they've been performing over the last few weeks against Australia and they're possibly the best team in the world at the moment.
"From my point of view and the team's point of view there's a desire to perform as a group of cricketers and also individually because you want to perform against the best in different conditions."
India have already announced that Sachin Tendulkar will be rested for the first three matches of the series while Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman are no longer considered for one-day cricket.
"It's a shame because in a strange way I've always enjoyed playing against Sachin," he claimed. "He's one of the greatest batsmen ever but you want to play against people like that, you want to test yourself.
"He's someone I enjoyed watching growing up and I've had the privilege of playing against him on a few occasions and I'd have liked him to play in all the series.
"We haven't performed as well as we can do in one-day cricket in recent years, but this is a new team and a strong team - the challenge is to put it all together against a very good team in tough conditions."
Of course no visit to Mumbai would be complete without the Indian media questioning Flintoff on his shirt-swirling antics after securing an unlikely victory for England against India in this city back in 2002.
During an open media session today, Flintoff's exuberance six years ago quickly became the hot topic among local media and after being asked whether he would consider a repeat performance he initially claimed: "It depends how I go. I'll have to find some abs in the next few weeks if I'm going to do it."
But under more intense interrogation, Flintoff eventually hardened his stance, joking: "I was younger then and hopefully I'm a lot wiser now - I won't be taking my shirt off under any circumstances."