I am teetotal to ward off depression, Flintoff says

LONDON: Former England cricket captain Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff, whose image as a heavy, fun-loving drinker was sealed by his animated victory celebrations, has opened up about now being teetotal as part of his battle with depression.

Flintoff was famously pictured looking the worse for wear on an open top bus tour through London and at a Downing Street reception after England had beaten Australia to win the 2005 Ashes series.

But on the eve of the start of this year's series, Flintoff has told the BBC's Desert Island Discs radio programme that the days when he inspired team mates by dancing naked to Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire were now consigned to the past.

The retired all-rounder, who played in 79 tests for England and is now a 37-year-old father of three and a regular guest on TV shows, told presenter Kirsty Young about struggling with depression, his decision to stop drinking and his devotion to family life.

Flintoff said he stopped the all-night drinking bouts after making a documentary about depression in sport in 2012.

"It's not so much the drinking, it's actually the reasons why you are drinking.

"When you are drinking because you are trying to get away from something I think that is when you have got to look at everything," he remarked.

"One of the reasons I probably stopped drinking is that I am prone to suffer from depression. Drinking doesn't help one bit. I don't touch it now."

He realised his drinking had started to become a problem when he was sacked as England vice-captain in 2007 after getting drunk and into difficulties after taking a pedal boat out to sea in St Lucia following a World Cup defeat.

"My heart goes out to anyone out there who is struggling now," he added.

Desert Island Discs, which has been running since 1942, allows guests to choose eight records they would take to a desert island and among Flintoff's choices were "I Just Can't Help Believing" by Elvis Presley, "Rocket Man" by Elton John, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Judy Garland and "Roll With It" by Oasis.

His book choice would be "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee and his luxury item was a family photo album.