Nottingham:Australia captain Ricky Ponting claimed Friday that a half-fit Andrew Flintoff would be unlikely to be of much help to England in the Ashes series.
The allrounder has been ruled out of next month's Twenty20 World Cup after undergoing knee surgery after being injured in the Indian Premier League. England star batsman Kevin Pietersen is also recovering from an Achilles tendon injury during the IPL.
Ponting believes Flintoff has to be on top form if England is to repeat its 2005 Ashes triumph and avoid a repeat of its whitewash when he captained the side 18 months later in Australia.
"(It's) the great decision the England selectors are going to have to make come the first test," Ponting said. "Flintoff is obviously very important to their makeup and setup. Maybe, as we saw in 2007, if he's not 100 percent fit then maybe that sort of impact he can have around the team is not there.
"2005 to 2007, we saw two completely different players and that had a lot to do with the level of fitness that he had under his belt going into each series. That's where they're going to have a tough decision to make. I don't know where Pietersen's at at the moment, I'm not sure how bad his problem is, but they could face something similar there as well."
Ponting shunned the lucrative IPL and said a month off had left him feeling "relaxed, fresh and rejuvenated."
"There was obviously great incentive for those guys to go and play with the amount of money they went for, and I guess they were always coming back from the IPL early for the test matches," Ponting said. "For us it was a great opportunity to step away from cricket for a few weeks and make sure we're in the best shape we could be in.
"For me it was pretty simple, it was about how long our summer was and how much cricket we played. It was a good opportunity for me to have a couple of weeks off cricket, and make sure that when I got here for the start of this tournament I was in the best physical and mental shape I could be."
England's test side appears to be in good shape heading into the Ashes series after a 2-0 series victory over West Indies. But Ponting said the hosts were going to have to step up its game to have any chance.
"They played some very good cricket against the West Indies, but the competition and opposition they'll be coming up against is vastly stiffer than what they've faced in the last few weeks," he said.
Australia open its tour with two 20-over warm-up matches before its Twenty20 World Cup campaign begins June 6 against West Indies, with Sri Lanka providing its other Group C opposition.
After the tournament, Australia has two games to prepare for the first Ashes test in Cardiff, Wales, which starts July 8.