Andrew Flintoff stamped his own mark on the England team as they departed for the first leg of a hotlyanticipated Ashes winter by declaring: "I am not a stand-in captain".

The England captaincy has been in a state of flux since last year's Ashes victory as Michael Vaughan struggled with a persistent knee problem which eventually required surgery.

Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss and Flint-off have led the side at different times in the last 12 months.

With Vaughan out until the new year, Flintoff was appointed captain for England's biggest winter in memory as they embark on the ICC Champions Trophy in India and then an Ashes defence.

The Lancashire allrounder missed most of England's summer after undergoing an ankle operation and he is still not fit enough to bowl but Flintoff says this is his England team now - and he will lead them from the front.

"I have been given the England captaincy for this trip. I am not a stand-in. I am taking the side out there and I am going to captain them," he said.

"The sooner we get Michael back in the England team, the better. He is a class performer and he has led the team well. We want Michael fit as soon as we can but I am looking forward to leading the lads out and going out to bat - that is something I have not done for a while. I have done all the necessary gym work and I am not in bad nick, but I am hungry to get out there to India and play cricket.

"When you are not playing, you realise how much it means to you and how much you miss it.

"I have had an enforced break and I have realised what it means to me and I want to get back out there and play."

Flintoff will play as a specialist batsman at least in the early stages of what is a tough Champions Trophy assignment for England, who are grouped with Australia and hosts India.

He has bowled at 60 per cent pace in the nets and expects to be firing on all cylinders again when England reach Australia.

Flintoff is determined not to let the excitement and anticipation of the looming Ashes tour derail England's campaign on the sub-continent.

All has not been right in the one-day side this year.

They struggled during the summer and lost five successive matches to Sri Lanka before drawing 2-2 with Pakistan.

England reached the ICC final on home soil two years ago and, with the World Cup in mind next April, Flintoff is determined to go one better.

"I have played in one ICC Trophy before and we got to the final then. To have come so close, it hurts," he said.

"We go out there to try to win the ICC tournament. A lot has been made of the Ashes afterwards and we know what a big winter it is but we have to address what is in front of us first and that is this tournament.

"It is going to be tough. We have got Australia and India in the group but for the one-day side to come back and draw 2-2 with Pakistan was a great effort.

"They showed signs of improvement but we need to work on consistency. We have shown we can compete with the best sides in the world and we can beat the best sides in the world. But we need to do it on a regular basis.

"The next few weeks will be a great opportunity for the lads to stake a claim with the World Cup coming up. It is an exciting challenge. We go to India to win cricket matches."