Talismanic England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff has tipped India to retain the ICC World Twenty20 Championship next month, saying that the Indian Premier League experience will come in handy for Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men in their title defence.
Flintoff, who has been ruled out of the June 5-21 event in England after undergoing a knee surgery early this month, told PTI from Lancashire that Australia, South Africa and England would pose a strong challenge to India.
"Indians just played in a world-class competition in IPL and naturally they are the favourites (to win the T20 World Cup). Australia, South Africa and England would be strong challengers. England can spring a few surprises," he said.
Flintoff defended his decision to play in the IPL in South Africa where he ended up tearing a cartilage on his right knee, which ultimately led to him being ruled out of the World Twenty20 event.
"My injury was not from just one event or tournament, it was over a period of time and I think ECB should not be blamed for allowing me to play in the IPL," he said.
Flintoff underwent a keyhole surgery early this month after playing three IPL matches for Chennai Super Kings and that ruled him out of the two Tests and ongoing ODI series against the West Indies at home.
The 31-year-old all-rounder said he would now concentrate on making himself fit for the Ashes starting July 8.
"I met my surgeon yesterday and he was happy with my progress. I started light running yesterday but it will be a bit tight (for the Twenty20 World Cup). I am hoping to be fully fit for the Ashes," said Flintoff, who is the ambassador of Barclays Premier League 'Fan of India' contest.
Flintoff spoke highly of the IPL in South Africa and said he looked forward to playing more matches for Chennai next year in India.
"IPL has become huge and I am looking forward to play in India. I want to play a bigger role for Chennai next year, hopefully play the entire tournament. I think I could have done better this year but I am looking forward to next year," said Flintoff, who was bought for a whopping USD 1.55 million but managed just 62 runs and two wickets in the three matches he played.
Flintoff also believes that with IPL's success the profile of Twenty20 cricket has risen and the format deserves more presence in the international calendar.
"IPL has done wonders for Twenty20. Yeah, we should think about more Twenty20 Internationals but it is for the administrators to take the call," he added.
Flintoff, a die-hard Manchester City football club fan, is an ambassador for the Barclays Fan of India -- the search for the most fanatic supporter of the Barclays Premier League in the country.
The winner of the contest, launched in Mumbai on May 11, will be offered by English Premier League title sponsors Barclays a trip for two to England to see an EPL team of his choice in the 2009-10 season.
Fans are required to explain in no more than 100 words why they are the Barclays Fan of India and can include slogans, videos or photographs to support their entry to www.Barclaysfanofindia.Com.