| Michael Vaughan in Nagpur on Monday. (Reuters)
Nagpur: By Andrew Flintoff’s own admission, he has much more on his plate than the much-maligned Indian chicken!
Flintoff wasn’t even the vice-captain when England arrived a fortnight ago. Yet, come Wednesday and he’ll be heading for the toss with Rahul Dravid. Vice-captain Marcus Trescothick left for home (apparently, in tears) on Saturday; captain Michael Vaughan is doing the same on Tuesday.
Of course, sans the tears.
Injury-prone quick Simon Jones is also going to be on the same Nagpur-Mumbai-London flights as his regular captain. Jones hurt his right knee during Monday’s nets at the VCA Stadium and a scan revealed “minor cartilage damage.”
It’s unclear whether Vaughan and Jones will return. England’s priority is for a trusted specialist to examine both at the earliest. Vaughan, it may be recalled, had problems on the same (right) knee during the pre-Christmas tour of Pakistan and went home for surgery.
There has been a recurrence and Vaughan was pretty downcast after failing to clear Monday morning’s fitness test. Whatever else he conveyed to his ‘successor’, Vaughan shook hands and remarked “all the best, lad” when they crossed each other at the lunch buffet.
Flintoff, whose captaincy experience has largely been limited to England U-19 and “some matches” for Lancashire, acknowledged he was “one day” hoping to become the Test captain ' in different circumstances, mind you.
“It’s something I wanted to do... It’s going to be an opportunity for a young side and I expect the lads to show strength and character... This is Michael’s team, but I’m confident I’ll get the same respect,” Flintoff observed.
Asked whether the pressure could get to him, he answered: “I’m not one to shy away and I’ve done well in pressure situations... I see the captaincy as greater responsibility... Today, I probably control my destiny better...”
However, will more responsibility curb his natural flair' Flintoff laughed: “I’m going to be my own self... I can’t change too much... The good thing is that the lads know their job...”
“Greater responsibility” has certainly put a stop to Flintoff’s thoughts of heading home during the third and final Test (Mumbai, from March 18) to be by the side of Rachel as she delivers their second child.
“We’ve spoken about it in the last 48 hours and Rachel has been very supportive... If needed, I can take a break before the start of the ODIs (New Delhi, March 28),” he informed, grinning.
Talking to The Telegraph, Flintoff said Vaughan was his “role model captain.”
Meanwhile, Team India may field five specialist bowlers in the first Test. If that happens, all three spinners ' Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and rookie Piyush Chawla ' will be in the XI. Sreesanth (who, too, hasn’t yet played a Test) could partner Irfan Pathan.
Wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s fantastic form has tempted the thinktank to look at sending him at No. 6. Unless there’s a rethink, Wasim Jaffer’s comeback is certain and, so, the top five should comprise Virender Sehwag, Jaffer, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and V.V.S. Laxman.
The wicket is dry and without even one blade of grass, much in contrast to what was offered in the last Test (versus Australia, 16 months ago).