Flintoff goes undercover
Andrew Flintoff intends to become England's spy to aid their ICC World Twenty20 campaign when he embarks on his Indian Premier League adventure next week.
The Lancashire all-rounder has signed up for a two-week stint with the Chennai Super Kings and will earn $1.5million on a pro rata basis depending on the number of matches he plays for his new side.
Flintoff is one of a number of leading England players, along with Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara, who was snapped up at the auction to feature in the Twenty20 tournament, which has been moved to South Africa because of security concerns in India.
And Flintoff believes the IPL will be the perfect stage to help him reach his peak this summer – and also provide him with the opportunity of spying on opposition players.
"It's been frustrating with the hip injury, thigh injury and getting hit on the thumb just before the end of the tour of the West Indies and I think the IPL will be good for me," said Flintoff, whose hat-trick helped England clinch the one-day series in West Indies on Friday.
"There are a few people putting it down but keeping playing should help me out a lot. When I stop and start is when my body is at its most vulnerable.
"I know I'm only bowling four overs a game, but it will give me a chance to work on my game in between games going into a Test series and I will be working with top facilities out in South Africa."
Flintoff will mingle with players like former Australia opener Matthew Hayden, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, New Zealand all-rounder Jacob Oram and Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan, an old friend from his time as Lancashire's overseas player, at Chennai.
It will also give him a chance to learn about their preparation techniques and may give him a better insight into their strengths and weaknesses before the World Twenty20 in June.
"The World Twenty20 is going to be huge and international Twenty20 cricket is going to become bigger and bigger," said Flintoff.
"While I'm out there I'll be watching the likes of Dhoni, who has played a lot of it, and Hayden, who had a good IPL last year. I will be speaking to a few of the Indian guys and see if I can pick their brains.
"I think you'll find players helping each other out and talking to each other, but the flip side of that is that other sides have England team-mates so you have to be a bit cautious about what you're saying.
"Ultimately, it's all about playing for England and by passing on a bit of information about one of your players could be to the detriment of this team and that's something you can't do."
Flintoff opens his IPL career against Sachin Tendulkar's Mumbai Indians in Cape Town on April 18 before facing England team-mate Pietersen's Bangalore Royal Challengers in Port Elizabeth two days later.
The 31-year-old also faces a confrontation with Collingwood and Shah when Chennai take on Delhi Daredevils in Durban on April 23 and finishes with a match against reigning holders Rajasthan Royals in Centurion on April 30.
He will play seven matches in all before reporting back in England on May 1 alongside England's other centrally-contracted players ready for the tough summer ahead, which includes Test and one-day series against West Indies, the World Twenty20, the Ashes and a seven-match one-day series against Australia.
"It is a long schedule and everyone is looking forward to the Ashes and making sure everyone is fit for that, but I've stressed all along that we have to perform in all the games we're playing," said Flintoff.
"From my point of view, although it's been frustrating, I've had four or five weeks when I've not played because I've been injured, so I'm probably fresher than a lot of the lads.
"If I'm asked whether I'm jaded in September I'll probably be on my knees but at this moment in time I'm looking forward to getting on with it."