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July 15, 2009
Andrew Flintoff believes that his impending retirement from Test cricket will enable him to focus on becoming the best one-day cricketer in the world, and he still harbours ambitions of playing for England in not only the 2011 World Cup in the subcontinent, but the 2015 tournament in Australia and New Zealand as well.
"I've missed two out of the last four years, so I've not got that rhythm of playing cricket day-in day-out," said Flintoff. "But as a bowler, apart from the body, I'm actually getting better, and I can nearly bat again. My best years might be in front of me, but not in this form of the game."
In order to maximise both the cricket he plays and the earnings he can make from the game, however, Flintoff is expected to secure a raft of short-term contracts which could lead to him playing in a variety of leagues all around the world.
He recently held talks with Queensland, over the possibility of signing a short-term contract for Australia's annual Big Bash competition, while he currently has one year to run on both his lucrative IPL $1.55million contract with Chennai, which made him, pro-rata, the most expensive overseas signing in the competition, and his English domestic deal with Lancashire, with whom he has yet to discuss his life after Tests.
There is no chance, however, that he will be persuaded back into the four-day grind of the County Championship, and instead he is likelier to feature in Lancashire's marquee events, most notably the P20, which gets underway next season.
"I've not spoken to Lancs yet, but when I get back up north I'll sit down with the chairman and Mooresy [coach Peter Moores], and see what they want from me and what I'd like to do as well. County cricket is tough playing four days, so that's something we'll probably have to have a look at."
If his words gave the impression that Flintoff has not given a lot of thought to the mundanity of county cricket, then Lancashire confirmed those suspicions. "The decision has come as a surprise to us," said their cricket director, Mike Watkinson. "Fred knows he has the full support of Lancashire and we are here to help him in anyway we can.
"He will obviously talk to the ECB about his future and then we'll do the same, but we look forward to having a closer relationship with Fred over the coming years. Although he hasn't played much for us over the past four or five years, he loves playing for Lancashire and always brings something special to the Old Trafford dressing-room. England's loss will hopefully benefit Lancashire."
Flintoff, though, doesn't intend to be found kicking his heels in his county dressing-room too often. "There are a lot of competitions around the world, but I'm not going to grumble about too much cricket, it's something I'm fortunate to play," Flintoff said. "We may see players' careers get shorter, but so be it. It's a busy schedule ahead of us, and it's going to be taxing on a lot of bowlers.
"There's enthusiasm to go on in one-day cricket, but there's sadness that I've finally had to give up in Test cricket in regards to my body," said Flintoff. "Nothing can fill you with as much excitement as an Ashes series - it's on a different level to any other competition you play in. But I enjoy the shorter form, and I want to be the best I possibly can be, and focus all my energies on that."
Flintoff's desire to carry on playing for England, however, may depend on his willingness to accept a scaled-down version of the ECB central contract that he has held (with the odd hiatus) since they were first introduced in 2000. Although injury eventually forced him home early from this season's IPL, the ECB's agreement had limited even the increment-contract holders to a three-week window, which would presumably be too little, both for Flintoff himself and the IPL commissioner, Lalit Modi.
When asked if it was a concern that a 31-year-old in the prime of his career had been persuaded to give up Test cricket for the sake of his career, England's captain, Andrew Strauss gave a diplomatic response.
"I don't think you can say that," he said. "We've seen Glenn McGrath go onto 37, and Shaun Pollock went on for a long time as well. But it's a little bit more specific to Andrew Flintoff, the way he bowls and the pressure he puts on his body. There is a lot of cricket being played these days, as there has been for the last ten years or so, and managing those workloads is difficult."
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