Article excerpt

Byline: Martin ROGERS

FREDDIE Flintoff has insisted he does not fear burn-out despite being faced with a gruelling 18-month schedule.

Flintoff begins his domestic season next week and is adamant he is prepared for the action-packed programme that will leave him without any significant rest period until after the summer of 2007.

After hosting Sri Lanka and Pakistan this summer, England are due to head to Australia to defend the Ashes, to be followed by the World Cup in the Caribbean and another full home season.

But after returning from the energy-sapping tour of India just a fortnight ago, Flintoff has even found time to squeeze in filming for Ready Steady Freddie, a slot he will host on new Sky Sports programme Cricket AM.

He said: "There is going to be a lot happening over the next 18 months but we cannot afford to look too far ahead of ourselves.

"I am just thinking about the First Test against Sri Lanka and I know that while everyone on the outside will be looking ahead to the Ashes, we will not be getting carried away.

"There is a lot more attention on us, that is how things have really changed over the past year. There is more recognition and the profile is higher.

"But the important things have not changed, not for me anyway. I still like going for a pint and going to the horse racing with my mates, that will always stay the same.

"I rested for the last three onedayers in India and now I am feeling pretty good and quite fresh. I will be getting back into cricket over the next week or so but for now I am just keeping it ticking over in the gym."

The Ready Steady Freddie slot will feature Flintoff conducting a series of challenges against leading sportsmen and includes boxing with Ricky Hatton and playing darts against Phil 'The Power' Taylor.

He has also been shown how to kick rugby goals with Charlie Hodgson and is due to take part in a penalty shoot-out competition at Manchester City.

However, the extra commitments are certain to raise concerns that Flintoff is taking on too heavy a workload after shouldering much of the burden for the England side over the past year.

He added: "I have really enjoyed it to be honest. It has been great to meet different sports people and see how they go about doing their business."

But former Aussie skipper Steve Waugh fears burn-out is inevitable for Flintoff and the rest of cricket's top stars.

He warned: "There has to be a better balance. It's hard for players to perform all the time - they need a proper break between Test matches and onedayers to allow them to recover mentally and physically. …