SHARJAH // Members of the UAE cricket fraternity are counting down the days until Andrew Flintoff can toss away his crutches and get out on the training field with the national team. The 31-year-old England all-rounder is set to assist the Emirates on an informal basis over the coming months while he stays in Dubai. Colin Wells, the national team coach and a former England all-rounder himself, predicted that Flintoff's presence in the country will lead to an "up-swell in interest" among anyone interested in cricket. And Naeemuddin Aslam, the UAE's wicket-keeper, added: "He is such a great player, even if we only learn five per cent from him, that will be good for us.
"It can only benefit us. It is good for us that the ICC's Global Cricket Academy has been set up over here because it gives us an opportunity to learn from the best, people who have played Test cricket. "We can only dream of playing Test cricket and will probably never realise that dream, but to learn from people like Rod Marsh, Mudassar Nazar and Freddie Flintoff himself, you can't ask for anything more than that."
Flintoff's agent revealed this week that the all-rounder is considering settling in Dubai, where he is currently undergoing rehabilitation after knee surgery. If he was resident for four years in the country he would qualify to represent the UAE, as per the ICC's regulations, as long as he did not play for England again during that period. Aslam joked: "He could play for us if he was 45, no worries! Even finding him playing local cricket for a team would be brilliant.
"Let's hope he does his qualifying period and plays for the UAE. We would be glad to have him in our Arab Udupi team - I would even step down and give him my place, any day." firstname.lastname@example.org The UAE coach Wells gives his perspective, s10