Andrew Flintoff has already seen enough of Jofra Archer to back the England newcomer for a key role at the World Cup, regardless of who has to make way.
The Barbados-born seamer only qualified for selection in March but has already made an impact in England colours, taking three wickets in his first two appearances against Ireland and Pakistan.
The Sussex man has comfortably topped 90mph and showcased an ability to unnerve batsmen with steepling bouncers and toe-crushing yorkers alike.
Archer was not named in the preliminary 15-man squad for the World Cup but will get more chances in the five-match one-day series against Pakistan, starting at the Oval on Wednesday, and looks set to leapfrog one of the initial call-ups.
Speaking at the launch of the official tournament song, Stand By by London four-piece Rudimental, Flintoff admitted he had been won over by the 24-year-old.
- Bayliss: Hales has an England future
- KP opens up on England troubles
- Root opens Ashes door for Jofra Archer
“He’s got to be in, hasn’t he? Who I would get rid of? Anyone. I think he’s brilliant,” said Flintoff.
“He is unbelievable. I was watching him bowl the other day and I found it so frustrating that a bloke can bowl so fast with what looks like so little effort. He has so much control, all the tricks – slower balls, bouncers, yorkers – and he bats as well.”
Flintoff, a veteran of three unsuccessful World Cup campaigns during his own playing days, also swept aside concerns that Archer’s emergence had come too late in the four-year cycle and could disrupt harmony.
He was part of the squad that welcomed Kevin Pietersen into the Test team on the eve of the unforgettable 2005 Ashes following his switch from South Africa – with 100-cap great Graham Thorpe the man who was ultimately pushed aside.
“That wasn’t popular with everyone because Thorpey had come back in the side and scored a hundred against South Africa, but Kev showed the way to take them on, and Archer has that same ability to surprise people, to lead the way and raise the bar,” Flintoff added.
“For me, team spirit is born out of winning. I played in a lot of sides, and the only ones that had team spirit were the successful ones."
“Parachuting someone in is not the issue. We just don’t know until he’s been brilliant for England over a period of time.”
Asked how he would have felt if it was his place at risk, Flintoff said: “I would make sure I raised my game. It’s international sport, it’s competitive.
“It’s a good position for England to be in. Competition for places is what you always want, especially in one-day cricket because apart from these last few years we’ve never been very good at it have we?”
The last time England hosted the World Cup was 20 years ago, when Dave Stewart’s tournament song All Over the World was famously released a day after Alec Stewart’s team had been knocked out.
A May 17 release date for Stand By means that faux pas will not be repeated, with Flintoff adding: “I remember the 1999 song vaguely. That World Cup as a player was one to forget.”