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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Injured Flintoff under pressure not to play IPL

Injured England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff is reportedly under pressure not to play in the 2009 Indian Premier League Twenty20 competition.

With Australian captain Ricky Ponting and several other players from that country deciding to opt out, Flintoff's fragile fitness has assumed a larger than life picture, especially in the wake of England failing to win the third Test in Antigua.

In an article for The Telegraph, former England fast bowler Derek Pringle is critical of Flintoff's desire to appear for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL in his injured state, and urges him to learn from Ponting, who has put country first before IPL.

He quotes one England player as saying: "Ponting can do what he likes. I'm playing in IPL, end of story."

"If that sounds unpatriotic, the reality of playing for England these days is a non-stop slog of matches and tours for which the England and Wales Cricket Board must take much of the blame. After all, the quickest way to grow the game's revenue in recent years has been to enhance TV deals by playing ever-increasing amounts of cricket, a process that has proceeded unchecked for 10 years," says Pringle.

At first players countered by warning of burnout, but with money now to be made by playing yet more cricket, a hard-nosed attitude has taken hold," Pringle adds.

He blames the ECB squarely, saying that had they not made such an issue over IPL participation last year, and not insisted that players appear for the ill-fated Stanford venture as a way of remaining out of reach of India's Twenty20 moguls, the players would probably have been less bullish now about taking part.

"The Board's other option, and one many former England cricketers feel they should have taken, was to have handed players, especially those dithering over signing their central contracts, an ultimatum: "You can play in IPL but while it takes place when it does [April and May], if you do you won't play for England," Pringle says.

"With the Ashes imminent, injury is likely to be an emotive matter with regard to IPL, which is why Flintoff, who will discover the extent of any damage to his right hip on Saturday, is keeping his own counsel. But the thought of him playing extra cricket, and IPL is an add-on, albeit a highly lucrative one, must run contrary to England's best interests for this summer's Ashes and World Twenty20," he concludes.

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