Flintoff ruined World Cup: Vaughan

AP

The all-rounder's drunken antics `changed the atmosphere in the camp', says the England captain who also admits his own one-day failures. By Donald McRae.

Michael Vaughan has blamed Andrew Flintoff for destroying England's team spirit and contributing to a disastrous World Cup campaign in the Caribbean.

The England captain says Flintoff's drunken lapse of discipline after the team's first game, when he had to be rescued after capsizing a pedalo, demoralised the camp. "We arrived at the World Cup in a positive frame of mind," Vaughan said in an exclusive interview to the Guardian. "But unfortunately incidents happened which affected the team. You have to be honest: the `Fredalo' incident did affect the team. It did affect morale.

"Those incidents are bound to affect team spirit. Suddenly you've got players who have no freedom left. I like to see players enjoy themselves but no one would dare go out after that incident — and you can't create any spirit then.

"That incident changed the whole atmosphere in the camp. We went into the New Zealand game with a really good attitude but we didn't play well and after `Fredalo' we just started taking it all too seriously. That might sound silly but everyone was too tense and desperate. There was no escape — and even on the field you have to be pretty free, especially in one-day cricket."

Flintoff's escapade cost him the vice-captaincy, after he had led England, in Vaughan's absence, during the 5-0 Ashes defeat in Australia. Acknowledging that he supported Flintoff's demotion, Vaughan said: "I was obviously asked. That was the decision. It was a tough decision but after what went on it was bound to happen."

Vaughan's candour will present the new coach, Peter Moores, with one of his first real challenges as he strives to lift the mood of his talismanic all-rounder. Flintoff, after surgery on his ankle, faces a potentially lengthy period out of international cricket.

Vaughan acknowledged that he too should bear some of the blame for the Caribbean failure. "I was more tense than I've ever been as a captain. Duncan Fletcher was more tense than he'd ever been as a coach. And sometimes the captain and coach have to look at the way they're acting because the team follows. I didn't captain as well as I should've done because of the pressure I put myself under. I'd admit that. But I couldn't switch off because away from the field there was so much going on — with Bob Woolmer and 'Fredalo'."

He again expressed surprise that England had not asked for his advice during last winter's Ashes series. "When I took on Australia as captain I'd had almost 2� years in the job — Fred didn't have that experience. There's unbelievable pressure in the Ashes. I could've taken a little of that pressure. I spoke to Flintoff a few times but it was made clear to me I had to get myself fit first."

If Vaughan has returned to Test cricket with some grandeur — describing his century in the second Test against West Indies last month as "the best innings of my life" — he has conceded that there might be a psychological flaw in his disappointing one-day performances. "There must be. I always feel form is not down to technique.

It's all about where you are mentally. And there must be something holding me back in one-day cricket.

"I'm baffled by it. So I'm going to sit down with Peter Moores and come up with what we feel is the best one-day formula because we haven't been successful for a long time. But I've got to be honest. I don't think I'll make the next World Cup — that's four years on. Peter might say we don't want any players who can't make the next tournament and if that's the case I'll have to say I don't think I can get there."

Dismissing criticism that he has been given preferential treatment by England's selectors, Vaughan said: "A day will come when England will be better without me but at the minute I think they're a lot better off with me. There's nothing wrong in thinking you're quite good.

"Maybe Andrew Flintoff should be saying the same thing. I'm hoping he is because we're certainly a better team with him.

I haven't spoken to him since his operation but I've been texting him. I've come back from knee injuries and he's come back from ankle injuries so he can certainly do it again."

Evidence proves Vaughan's inconsistency

England's captain Michael Vaughan re-ignited the row over Andrew Flintoff's drunken pedalo escapade by denying that he had identified it as a prime factor in England's World Cup flop.

Vaughan sought to repair a strained relationship with Flintoff by claiming that he had been "totally misquoted" in the interview by the Guardian's Donald McRae. The Guardian responded by asserting the accuracy of the report and putting audio excerpts of the interview tape on its website.

Vaughan suggested that "one word changed the whole complexion of the article — a word that I didn't say." Asked what that word was, he said: "I think it's Fredalo. I never used that word, no — I was certainly not pinpointing anyone. Me and Freddie are good mates and unfortunately it has been blown out of all proportion."

In the tapes, however, Vaughan is heard using the term "Fredalo" in connection with England's World Cup failure on more than one occasion.

Flintoff was said to be shaken by Vaughan's assessment that his behaviour had a negative effect on morale.

The Guardian's sports editor, Ben Clissitt, said: "We were rather puzzled by Michael's comments. It is clear that Michael uses the word "Fredalo" on more than one occasion.

Equally his contention that the interview did not contain any self-critical comments is misplaced. That passage appeared both on the front page of our sports section and in the interview inside.

"I understand that Michael has been under a bit of pressure for his words. However, the inelegance of his reversal (at lunchtime) was matched only by its inaccuracy."

David Hopps @ Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007