Andrew Flintoff missing the team bus during a weekend trip to Belgium was an unwanted "distraction" for the England cricket team ahead of the Ashes and reflected poorly on the side's leadership, feels former captain Mike Atherton.
"Oops, he's gone and done it again. Andrew Flintoff is back and the talk, once again, is not of cricket but of discipline, timekeeping and alcohol," Atherton wrote in The Times.
"A trip to Flanders designed, presumably, to broaden players' minds and get a bit of good PR has blown up in England's face with the news that Flintoff has been disciplined for missing the team bus. It is a distraction that nobody needs right now, in the week before the Ashes," he said.
Atherton said the incident puts a question mark on the authority of England skipper Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower ahead of the Ashes starting next week.
"Andrew Strauss didn't need it. The team, Strauss said, have a timekeeping issue generally. Ravi Bopara is known to have missed a team meeting this summer, but from what Strauss said yesterday, it is a more widespread challenge for his team to defeat. After that, the Aussies should be a cinch.
"If true, there are three problems: it suggests a lack of respect for the leaders of the group, Andy Flower and Strauss himself, and a lack of authority on their part; it suggests a lack of respect within the group generally - is there any worse feeling than being kept waiting because of someone else's rudeness or forgetfulness? - and it makes England sound not like the national team made up of heroes but a team full of adolescents who cannot manage themselves properly," Artherton said.
He felt Flintoff will have to be on guard from now as one more slip on discipline may cost him big and even strain his relation with coach Flower.
"Flower will be aware that Duncan Fletcher's authority was eroded to damaging effect after his failure to discipline Flintoff during the previous Ashes tour. Flower will not want to make that mistake - and Flintoff should be careful because Flower is no soft touch.
"It was, then, the faulty alarm clock that did no one any good. Does it matter at all? That all depends on results," the former right-handed opener said.