Botham backs Flintoff

Former Test all-rounder Ian Botham has stressed that Andrew Flintoff should captain England if Michael Vaughan is still injured when the team heads to Australia later this year to defend the Ashes.

Vaughan is set to undergo a fourth operation on the his troubled knee next week, and the likelihood of him heading to Australia is remote.

Flintoff, who stood in for Vaughan in England's 1-1 Test series in India this year, is currently sidelined with an ankle injury, but is expected to recover in time for the side's upcoming series against Pakistan.

While Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss have both had stints in charge of the team, Botham believes Flintoff is the best man for the job.

"He deserves to captain England in Australia because he has done it the hard way," Botham told AFP.

"He has the respect of his own players and the opposition players and he has done it by performing."

"He is the obvious choice. There is no-one else. If Michael Vaughan isn't fit and doesn't make the trip, it's got to be Fred (Flintoff)."

Botham had a disappointing spell as skipper in the early 80s, with the burden of being the star all-rounder too much to add to the pressures of leading the team.

But he is confident Flintoff can avoid a similar fate and insists he is the most suitable candidate to lead England's campaign.

"For those people who say 'what about the burden?' I have got one very simple question. If you are playing against England who would you least like to be tossing in the middle with you?

"He is the most inspirational figure in the side and if Michael Vaughan - who is the best captain - isn't available then you want the most influential player to be the one calling the shots," he said.

"People try to be detrimental towards him by drawing a comparison with me. They say when Botham was England's leading all-rounder it affected his form but the fact is I lost 1-0 and 2-0 in five-match Test series to a West Indies team that was probably the most powerful of all time.

"Whoever tosses the coin with Ricky Ponting in Brisbane on November 23 can only be one of two people - either Michael Vaughan, if he makes a speedy recovery, or Fred," he said.

"There is no-one else and deep down the England hierarchy must know that."

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