Flintoff's ECB contract rejection threatens Test cricket, but he plays it down

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London, Sep.17 (ANI): All-rounder Andrew Flintoff may have unwittingly incited the break-up of international cricket by his refusal of an England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) incremental contract, but he has played down reports of a possible backlash.

Flintoff has assured that his rejection of an England increment contract, a second tier deal offered to him because of his retirement from Test cricket, did not lessen his commitment to England. The all-rounder, who is Dubai undergoing rehabilitation after knee surgery, made it clear that he has no intention of missing any England games should they clash with matches in the various Twenty20 franchise competitions he also hopes to be part of.

Although Flintoff has put all negotiations on hold while he recovers he is known to have been in preliminary talks with teams in Australia, where their revamped Twenty20 competition is to be called the Big Bash and South Africa, where the Pro20 is easily the most popular professional cricket in the country.

Sean Morris, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, said yesterday that other players would join Flintoff in rejecting national deals and that there may be a rash of early retirements from international cricket.

"I think there will be a lot of serious discussion in Johannesburg later this month among the parties and between the parties. I can't overestimate its importance. In the space of a few weeks we have had two leading players withdrawing from components of the international game, Andrew Flintoff from Tests and Ricky Ponting, from Twenty20 internationals," The Telegraph quoted Morris, as saying.

Flintoff's move may stimulate more than debate.

England captain Andrew Strauss was mildly surprised by the decision.

"I'm not going to sit in judgement of him because we don't know the reasons. We need to sit down and speak to him about why he's done this and we'll then make an informed decision about what that means to his availability for England," he said. (ANI)

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