England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff says he is better equipped than ever before to become one of the stars of the World Cup.
Andrew Flintoff is aiming to finally make his mark on World Cup history after admitting he is better equipped than ever before to become one of the stars of the tournament.
The Lancashire all-rounder is the most experienced member of England's squad with 112 one-day international appearances and two previous World Cups to his name.
Since first being picked for the 1999 World Cup aged just 21, Flintoff has developed into one of the world's best all-rounders – yet he is still waiting to light up the premier one-day tournament.
Both of his previous tournaments have been undermined by events off the field, with England's 1999 campaign being derailed even before the start with a pay dispute over appearance money and bonuses.
Then four years later England exited at the first stage again, this time after days of discussions about the moral implications of playing their opening match in Zimbabwe.
Those events clearly undermined both campaigns and have also restricted Flintoff's performances on the biggest stage of all, but this time he believes he is ready and able to deliver.
"I've played in two World Cups before and I'm going into this one at 29 having played a lot more one-day international cricket and I'm far better equipped to do well," he said.
"I'm expecting to perform and make a contribution to the side. I don't feel under pressure because of that. I'll probably be a bit nervous tomorrow, but I've enjoyed the two weeks we've been here so far.
"I enjoy playing cricket, I enjoy being out there and I've got to take that through. I can't put too much pressure on myself, I've just got to go out and play in a manner in which I know I can do."
In 1999 Flintoff only got to the crease twice during the defeats to South Africa and India and was so distraught at England's abject displays that he left his kit on the team coach and never bothered collecting it from the bus company.
Four years later expectations of him were greater and although he played important innings against India and Australia, England once again left early and Flintoff finished the tournament being fined by the team management for missing a social obligation.
It has made Flintoff all the more hungry to make his mark on this tournament, stressing: "The last World Cup almost kickstarted my career and I'm keen to perform in this one and play a major role for England.
"If you look at other sports the World Cup is the pinnacle of players' careers and in the one-day format, this is it for us – this is what you build for, this is what you want to play in and this is what you want to perform in.
"It's exciting, it's a big stage and a chance for people to shine. You want to perform on the biggest stage, that's the measure of a player performing on the big occasions in the big tournaments."
England will start their campaign on Friday against New Zealand, the other Test-playing side in their group with both teams looking to claim an important victory.
The tournament rules state that the points gained from results against fellow qualifiers will count towards the next stage and possible progress to the semi-finals.
They are two equally-matched teams and Flintoff conceded: "It's going to be a huge game in the context of the World Cup.
"It's the two top-seeded teams in the group, both of which will be expecting to go through without taking anything anyway from Kenya and Canada.
"The two sides look very similar on paper in the make-up of the teams and they both had success in the winter so it could be a good contest."
Flintoff will have particularly happy memories about facing New Zealand having claimed the man-of-the-match award for his unbeaten 72 to guide England to victory in Brisbane during the Commonwealth Bank Series.
Since being removed from that tournament by England, however, New Zealand have beaten Australia 3-0 and remain among the favourites for the World Cup.
England may also have to enter the crunch game without seamer James Anderson, the only other member of the attack apart from Flintoff with more than 50 one-day internationals to their name.
Anderson played only a tentative part in practice on Thursday after breaking his right little finger the previous day, but England will continue to assess him before making a final decision.
If Anderson is not passed fit to play it could mean a reprieve for Gloucestershire seamer Jon Lewis, who was thought to have lost the battle for selection with Liam Plunkett for the opening match.
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