The English have pinned their Ashes hopes on Andrew Flintoff but former Australian captain Steve Waugh believes despite the talismanic all-rounder's ability to rally the team around him, winning the famous urn for a second successive time for the defending champions would be "too big an ask for him."
"Good captains have the ability to get their team to follow them in all directions and he can do that, but whether he can combine the job with batting and bowling as well I'm not so sure. I think ultimately it may be just too big an ask for him," Waugh was quoted as saying by 'The Independent' here.
Flintoff has virtually been ruled out of the Champions Trophy in India after it was confirmed that he would need further surgery on his ailing left ankle.
The all-rounder saw a specialist on Saturday and will be operated upon this week. His rehabilitation is expected to take another 12 weeks, thus making it a race against time for him to be in shape before the ICC Champions Trophy.
Waugh felt Flintoff was crucial to England's Ashes hopes but expecting too much off him could also backfire. The former Aussie captain said the leadership skills of Flintoff, however, can never be under any doubt.
"He is an impressive cricketer. The way he gets stuck in, he does the hard work. He rolls up his sleeves and the other guys feed off him," he said.
Predicting a tough series, Waugh said the Aussies would start favourites nonetheless but would make a big mistake if they underestimate the English.
"I think Australia will start favourites. I think it will be a pretty close series and it will be 2-1 or 3-2. There won't be much in it. Obviously those scores are in Australia's favour. That goes without saying," he said giving his predictions for the much anticipated series.
The retired captain, who would love to invite astronaut Neil Armstrong for dinner, said he now spends most of his time working for charities like Udayan in India and reading books. Waugh also revealed a passion for photography and said he has clicked as many as 4000 by now.
"I am not doing any professional photography but I like getting out on the streets with my camera. It's something I have always done as a hobby," he said.
"Udayan takes a fair bit of my time, but I have my own charity, the Steve Waugh Foundation, in Australia which I run as well," he added while speaking about the things which keep him occupied now.