London:Andrew Flintoff is as reliable as a second hand car and England should not unnecessarily panic over the fitness of the all-rounder who is no more the talisman he was four years ago, according to former captain Mike Atherton.
As England sweat over Flintoff's fitness after a knee injury rendered the all-rounder doubtful for the second Ashes Test, Atherton said it was not the end of the world for the hosts.
"Whisper it...but the injury to Andrew Flintoff is not necessarily bad news for England.
"That is no longer the kind of heretical statement that would, once upon a time, have brought upon the perpetrator the Inquisition. There is now a general realisation that the talismanic all-rounder of four years ago is not as central to England's success as before," Atherton wrote in 'The Times'.
Drawing a rather unflattering comparison with a second-hand automobile which is frequently put through Ministry of Transport (MOT) tests, Atherton said, "Like a second- hand car with plenty of miles on the clock, Flintoff's body has become unreliable. You can give it as many MOTs as you like...but it is a truism that when you set off on a long journey, you are just not quite sure whether you will reach the destination."
Even though the all-rounder has not been ruled out of the Lord's Test yet, Atherton warned against fielding an unfit Flintoff.
"Where does this (Flintoff's injury) leave England? Not quite in the hole that some imagine," he said.
In that case, England should bring in Harmison. While that would deplete England's batting might, the hosts can negotiate it by inducting an extra batsman in Ian Bell at the cost of either Stuart Broad or Graham Onions, both of whom looked off-colour in Cardiff.
Atherton also made it clear that there could be "no place for Monty Panesar on a pitch that was looking green about the gills and damp to the touch."
Assuring Andrew Strauss and his men that Flintoff's absense would not mean doom for them, Atherton said, "Let us move on from the past and from the notion that Flintoff is a talisman for the England team...Flintoff is a fine cricketer, who will and should play if fit, but his stamp is no longer - if it ever has been - a guarantee of success."