Leeds:Star all-rounder Andrew Flintoff rates the Ashes rivalry against Australia as the ultimate for an Englishman, which could not be compensated by playing in any number of IPL or World Cup matches.
"The Ashes is like nothing else. You can have your World Cups and IPLs, but as an Englishman, to be able to play in the Ashes is the ultimate," said Flinotff, who has decided to prematurely quit Test cricket after the series owing to his recurring injury worries.
"I'm sure I speak for the Aussies as well. All the traditions, all the great players who've played in it, all the great contests. There's no doubt about it, these five weeks of Test cricket are the best you'll ever play in," he said.
Flintoff, who starred in England's 2005 Ashes win, is again standing tall in the series and he hopes to say goodbye to Test cricket on a triumphant note.
"It's been a hugely enjoyable series so far. I've been through some really tough times, two out of the last four years have been spent doing rehab. The carrot at the end has always been playing for England, pulling on the shirt again, and all the more so against Australia," he was quoted as saying by 'The Times'.
The 31-year-old cricketer also said the fans' noise during the third Test at Edgbaston was enjoyable. "The noise was amazing. Playing in front of full houses like that is what you play the game for. Just go with it and enjoy it," he said.
About the Headingley crowd, however, he said "They used to call me the Honey Monster, back in the days when I was massive, when I was about 20. I'd do anything to avoid fielding there in those days."
But Flintoff admitted Twenty20 was helping in global reach of cricket and making the sport "fashionable". "The Ashes is great for the game in general, but I think its appeal is broadening naturally. In the past it was only seen as a public-school sport.
"If you look at the current England team, that isn't the case. It's becoming much more fashionable and Twenty20 has a lot to do with that. It's a fast game with big crowds and the kids are identifying with that.
"Hopefully if they start watching that, they'll move on to the longer forms and get involved in the grand scheme of things. That's something that can be built on," he said.
Flintoff, inspired by David Beckham's football academy, is looking to build on cricket's popularity by conducting camps at summer and Easter for children aged seven to 16.
"I went to a school that didn't play cricket and you don't know what you're losing out on. Where I grew up in Preston, I was playing cricket every night of the week, but other kids were nicking cars and up to no good. Sport has been a massive part of steering me away from that and I hope cricket can do that for other kids," he said.