England news December 16, 2009

I'll always put England before Twenty20 cash - Flintoff

Cricinfo staff

Andrew Flintoff may have turned down a central contract but insists that England remain his top priority, ahead of several domestic Twenty20 deals.

Flintoff retired from Tests after the successful Ashes campaign and had rejected an ECB incremental contract soon after. There was speculation that he would become a Twenty20 freelancer, playing full-time in various domestic leagues around the world. He is already the IPL's most expensive player - along with Kevin Pietersen - after signing an annual US$1.55m deal with the Chennai Super Kings earlier this year.

Twenty20 may be more lucrative but England comes first, he told Wisden Cricketer. "I would never turn down England," he said. "I have shown more than enough passion over the years, and that's not something you lose because I don't have a contract.

"If I didn't think I was going to play for England again, I would not have had this latest operation, no way. It is all about playing for England. My intentions are to play every one-day and Twenty20 game for England. It is never going to be a case of picking and choosing."

A series of injuries were one of the reasons behind ending his Test career. He is currently recovering from a post-Ashes knee surgery, which forced him to be on crutches for nearly 12 weeks. Flintoff is still in doubt for England's tour of Bangladesh in February, but was hopeful his best years in limited-overs cricket were still ahead of him.

"I'm not sure I have even played my best yet, especially in one-day cricket - so now I am having this break I think I have got the chance to get better as a player. I am not going to just get by. I genuinely think I can now play my best ever cricket."

After turning down the England contract, Flintoff was linked with domestic Twenty20 deals in Australia and South Africa, sparking concerns that more players may decide to put cash before country. "I don't think other players will follow what I've done," he said. "There is a real misconception at the moment - people go on about the riches involved in Twenty20 cricket - but you earn your reputation playing Test cricket.

"Everyone wants to play that, and then maybe later on in your career some players will have a choice - especially bowlers, who can't play everything forever."