Key tips Flintoff to shine
England academy batsman Robert Key believes Andrew Flintoff will find captaining the side in the Ashes a boon and not a burden.
Key flies out to Australia next week with a 14-man Academy party who will set up camp in Perth.
The main squad are already Down Under preparing for the first Test in Brisbane which starts on November 23.
And Key is confident Flintoff, despite the heavy workload of leading the side, batting and bowling, will produce the goods.
“I think Flintoff will be fine. You don’t think the bloke can try any harder but the captaincy has put him in overdrive,” the Kent opener said.
“Being a great player is all about the big stage and that is something he does really well.
“The extra pressure has actually enhanced his career. Let’s hope the responsibility of being captain will drive him on even more.
“I think if England are down and out at any stage that will be an added drive and he will be the first person to stand up and try to change things. That is all you can ask for from your captain.”
Key is likely to be an Ashes spectator this winter, however, unless a batsman in the senior squad picks up an injury.
And while he does not wish ill-will on Duncan Fletcher’s side, a small part of him is hoping for an opportunity to regain his place in the senior side.
“Last year I think there were a hell of a lot of injuries,” he said.
“This time no-one might be injured or they could be dropping down like flies so it is an interesting position to sit there on standby.
“Everyone says you don’t wish injuries on anyone but I think all the guys here (in the Academy squad) might be lying - you only want one person [to be injured].
“The dream scenario for me is that I get the call-up, for whatever reason, go out and score some match-winning runs and win the Ashes.
“For all of us it would be nice to be involved.”
National Cricket Centre director Peter Moores is convinced any one of the players in the Academy squad will be able to hold their own should they be called into Ashes reckoning.
“The squad itself is very experienced and it is balanced to cover the different areas,” he said.
“The National Academy has changed. It no longer deals with youngsters. It deals with the next-best players to help support the England team.
“This squad has been picked to be the next best players.”
The players have been warned, however, that they will be worked hard in Australia.
“Our main reason for going to Perth is to set up a performance camp which serves two purposes,” said Moores.
“One, it will cover the England squad - although we are hoping no-one gets injured - and two, for the 14 players we take there it is a fantastic learning experience.
“It is not a playing camp. I don’t want people to think we are going there for five weeks sitting on the beach in Perth.
“The lads here (at the National Cricket Centre) have been training hard for three weeks and they are going to Perth for five weeks.
“They will then come back and we will identify our squad to train here again before going on the A tour to Bangladesh.”