Flintoff will be desperate to make sure England keep the Ashes
Andrew Flintoff has been confirmed as England's captain for the Ashes tour and ICC Champions Trophy.
Flintoff has been preferred to Andrew Strauss even though he has not played since undergoing ankle surgery in July.
The selectors have also gambled on the fitness of Ashley Giles and James Anderson for the series in Australia.
Giles has yet to bowl a ball in anger this year because of a hip problem while Anderson has been suffering from a stress fracture in his back.
The decisions of the selectors were based on fitness assessments of all 16 players in the squad carried out at Loughborough over the past two days.
But there is reason for concern based on the experience of the last Ashes tour when England's hopes were dashed by a series of injuries.
"Four years ago, we were looking into a crystal ball when we were trying to anticipate whether people were fit or not.
"People may remember that Andrew Flintoff was selected on the basis that he would be fit, he arrived in the Academy in Adelaide and he could hardly walk.
"The situation (now) is that our medical team is much more professional and much better organised," chairman of selectors David Graveney told BBC Sport.
Fitness issues aside, there are no real surprises in the Ashes squad.
Giles hopes to be fit to compete with Monty Panesar for a Test place
Liam Plunkett and Sajid Mahmood will provide the pace bowling support to Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Flintoff and Anderson, while Geraint Jones will be the back-up keeper to Chris Read.
Explaining Flintoff's appointment as skipper, Graveney said he had done an excellent job leading the team on the tour to India earlier this year and that had ultimately swayed the decision in his favour.
"We had two outstanding candidates in the absence of Michael Vaughan. It was a decision which did take a long time and a number of meetings," Graveney said.
"Andrew Strauss, typically of him, was very quick to point out 'Be assured, you have my 110% support for Freddie'.
"Everybody has to pull together because it's going to be a hard, hard battle, but I believe we can still retain the Ashes."
A 14-man Academy squad, who will be based in Perth, will provide cover for England in case of further injuries during the Ashes series, although only four of them - Rikki Clarke, Owais Shah, Robert Key and Jon Lewis - have previous Test match experience.
Lewis and Clarke are also in the one-day squad for the Champions Trophy, which starts in India next month.
It shows three changes to the 14 which recently drew the home series against Pakistan 2-2 with Flintoff, Anderson and Steve Harmison taking over from Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad and Darren Gough.
Giles will travel with the squad as he continues his rehabilitation, but will not play in the tournament, although England will try to find some competitive cricket for him in order to assess his fitness for Australia.
Meanwhile, England are still hoping that former skipper Michael Vaughan will be able to be involved in the one-day VB series which follows the Ashes Tests after recovering from a knee operation.
But fast bowler Simon Jones, another one of the heroes of the 2005 Ashes success on home soil, has been ruled out for the entire winter.
"Simon recently travelled to America for a re-assessment of the left knee which was operated on earlier in the summer by a specialist based in Colorado.
"The specialist is encouraged by Simon's progress but he has advised that any return to competitive cricket should be delayed until next season in order to give the surgery the best chance of succeeding," said the ECB's chief medical officer, Dr Peter Gregory.
England squad for Ashes tour: A Flintoff (captain, Lancashire, 62 Tests), A Strauss (Middlesex, 31 Tests), M Trescothick (Somerset, 76 Tests), A Cook (Essex, 9 Tests), K Pietersen (Hampshire, 18 Tests), I Bell (Warwickshire, 18 Tests), P Collingwood (Durham, 15 Tests), C Read (Nottinghamshire, 13 Tests), S Mahmood (Lancashire, 5 Tests), S Harmison (Durham, 45 Tests), M Hoggard (Yorkshire, 58 Tests), M Panesar (Northants, 10 Tests), G Jones (Kent, 31 Tests), A Giles (Warwickshire, 52 Tests), J Anderson (Lancashire, 13 Tests), L Plunkett (Durham, 6 Tests).
England squad for Champions Trophy: A Flintoff (captain, Lancashire), J Anderson (Lancashire), I Bell (Warwickshire), R Clarke (Surrey), P Collingwood (Durham), J Dalrymple (Middlesex), S Harmison (Durham), E Joyce (Middlesex), S Mahmood (Lancashire), J Lewis (Gloucestershire), K Pietersen (Hampshire), C Read (Nottinghamshire), A Strauss (Middlesex), M Yardy (Sussex).