Sluggish starts have been England's bane in the ongoing ODI series against India and Andrew Flintoff should be asked to open the innings if they are to avoid a whitewash, according to cricketer-turned-commentator Geoffrey Boycott.
Criticising the ploy to open with Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara in Sunday night's rain-truncated tie, Boycott said England needed a flying start in the shortened match but the openers just could not deliver the goods.
And by the time Flintoff hammered 41 off 30 balls in company of Owais Shah, who blasted 72 off 48 balls, the match was all but over, rued Boycott.
"Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara are both good batsmen, pretty to watch, full of classy touches and nice timing. But are they the kind of players who can slog the ball out of the ground? Absolutely not. They have trained themselves to play correct cricket shots, not to heave across the line," said the former opener.
"We saw when Andrew Flintoff got going just what could be achieved with a more muscular approach, but his cameo came too late. If you get off to a bad start in a 22-over match, you will always be playing catch-up cricket," Boycott wrote in The Daily Telegraph.
To succeed in India, Boycott argued, England needed to put the Indian bowlers under the kosh right from the start and Flintoff is the man who could do that.
"Even in a 50-over game, like the one at Kanpur last week, I would not go in with Bell and Bopara as openers. I would get Flintoff out there straight away: he is the man with the power to put the Indian bowlers on the defensive," he said.
"Pietersen needs to learn from the Indians, who go hard at the ball from the word go. When I say that Flintoff should open, I am not recommending that as a universal solution. Certainly you wouldn't want to throw him away against the new ball in England, where it nips about early on. But that is not so much of a problem in India," he said.
"The first few overs are the best time to bat. The ball skids on nicely, the fielders are inside the circle, and you have plenty of time ahead of you to pace your innings. Best of all, as far as Flintoff is concerned, you can get your eye in before the spinners come on," he added.