Sriram Veera is a staff writer and Nagraj Gollapudi an assistant editor at Cricinfo
Chennai Super Kings, the IPL franchise that paid US$ 1.55 million for Andrew Flintoff this year, hope to have the England allrounder - who announced his retirement from Test cricket today - available full time for the team next season.
Flintoff has said that he would focus on ODI and Twenty20 cricket after the ongoing Ashes series and VB Chandrasekhar, who heads cricket operations at Chennai, said that more cricketers who are nearing retirement could now take this option.
"It is always nice to have such a top cricketer to be available full time," Chandrasekhar, who is a former national selector, told Cricinfo. "I can understand why he has made this tough decision. Jacob Oram talked about how exacting it to play Test cricket with a fragile body. I see more cricketers taking this option when retirement is near the corner and the pressures tell on the body. They might retire from one format of the game."
Oram, the New Zealand allrounder and Flintoff's Chennai team-mate, had said during the IPL that he might consider giving up one skill set to sustain his career. Flintoff failed to create an impact in the IPL and played just four games for Chennai - scoring 62 runs and taking two wickets at 52.50 - before he was forced out by a knee injury. "We thought he did well for us," Chandrasekhar said. "He came with a great attitude and his presence in the dressing room was great for the youngsters."
Meanwhile, Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman, dismissed suggestions that the Indian league was one of the factors that prompted Flintoff to retire although he added that the league would be happy to provide cricketers "a second life" after they retire.
Modi said he agreed with the MCC cricket committee's views this week that the "proliferation of lucrative domestic Twenty20 leagues, such as the IPL, will lead to the premature retirement of quality international cricketers". But he added that the league also provides financial security to cricketers, especially in countries where cricket competes with other sports like rugby for fans' attention.
"IPL has nothing to do with it [Flintoff's decision]," Modi told Cricinfo. "Each player takes his own decision. We would encourage players not to retire from international cricket for IPL. But we are happy that we are able to give them a second life after they retire. Adam Gilchrist retired and everybody said he would not be the same but he has performed extremely well."
Modi said that more tournaments needed to come up to give similar financial security to players, like the IPL does. "Many countries have many other sports that are eating into cricket like rugby and soccer in countries like Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa. If that continues to evolve and we are not able to get viewers back to cricket those countries would be under pressure from the revenue point, which in turn would impact the player's overall salary.
"So tournaments like IPL and such would give them the financial stability by getting a bigger salary. But playing the IPL is not a full-time financial guarantee as it is performance-based as there so many options in terms of players available to the franchise who are allowed to field only four players in a game. But the IPL is not the only guarantee and more and more tournaments would need to come up to give similar financial security."