England news January 14, 2010

Flintoff ruled out of IPL but targets first-class return

Cricinfo staff

Andrew Flintoff has been ruled out of this year's IPL and ICC World Twenty20 after undergoing an arthroscopy on his left knee and will be sidelined for a further six months. However, after the routine operation showed that his knee is recovering well from the micro-fracture surgery he had in August, Flintoff now aims to play all versions of cricket for Lancashire when he does return to the field.

Flintoff underwent the original knee surgery the day after England regained the Ashes, and initially made positive noises about returning for the one-day series in Bangladesh, having announced his retirement from Test cricket earlier in the summer.

That time scale quickly proved unrealistic and his next goal became the IPL then the start of the English season which coincided with the ICC World Twenty20 in West Indies. Now, though, that too has been scrapped, but after positive news from his surgeon Flintoff is feeling even better about his future.

"It is disappointing not to be able to play for Chennai, who have been very supportive throughout my time with them, but I took this decision because I love playing cricket and want to give myself the best chance of extending my career," he said. "I have worked extremely hard over the last few months to get to this position and realise there is a lot more hard work in front of me if I want to return and play international cricket again.

"But if I am going to go through another six months of hard rehabilitation and training for long hours, I need a big incentive to be the driving force of that and playing for Lancashire and England again will become that."

Flintoff's desire to return to action has been stirred while he has been recuperating in Dubai by watching footage of himself in his prime and also following England's fortunes in South Africa.

"During my time in rehabilitation I have been watching England playing well in South Africa and it has made me realise how much I have missed cricket," he said. "For the first time in my career I have watched old footage of myself playing on youtube and I want to get back to playing like that again."

Now his comeback plans involve first-class cricket, which Flintoff had previously ruled out when he signed a new contract with Lancashire having turned down an ECB incremental deal.

"My goals have changed since last summer," he added. "I trust the surgeon, Andy Williams, implicitly and he is very pleased with the progress of the micro-fracture operation.

"When I first had the operation I did not think I would be able to play anything other than one-day cricket, but the news of my recovery has led me to believe I may play in all forms of cricket for Lancashire."

"First and foremost I have to prove to myself that I can regain my fitness and perform for Lancashire. My first love remains playing for Lancashire and I want to help them win trophies and hopefully I can help achieve that later this summer."

Although Lancashire will now have to wait longer for Flintoff's services they are excited by the prospect of having him available for the County Championship as well as the new 40-over league and the Twenty20 Cup.

"The latest update from the specialist indicates that Fred's right knee is recovering better than anyone expected following surgery for a micro-fracture," Mike Watkinson, Lancashire's cricket director, said. "It's this very positive report which has led to Fred's decision to play more than just one-day cricket for Lancashire.

"It is disappointing that he won't be able to return to action until midway through our season, but to have a stronger Fred available for all formats of cricket can only be a great thing for Lancashire."