NOTTINGHAM, England, September 16 – Andrew Flintoff has rejected the offer of an England incremental contract, the all-rounder announced on Tuesday, a move that effectively saw him become a freelance player.The 31-year-old, who retired from Test cricket after England’s Ashes triumph last month and who is currently sidelined with a knee injury, said his decision would help him become the best one-day international player in the world.
While stressing he remained committed to both Lancashire and England, Flintoff said in a statement on his own website: "I said when I retired from Test cricket my ambition was to become the best one-day and Twenty20 player in the world and playing in all these different countries can only help."
Flintoff was only available for an England incremental contract, worth some 30,000 pounds, rather than the more lucrative central contract because of his retirement from Tests.
An England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) spokesman told reporters here at Trent Bridge, where England eventually lost the fifth one-day international against Australia to go 5-0 down in a seven-match series, said that they would not react immediately.
"We have only just received the statement so we need some time to digest it properly and consider where the ECB stands before making a considered response."
Flintoff, currently recovering from knee surgery, retired from Test cricket after the end of England’s Ashes triumph last month because he said his injury-hit body could no longer stand the strain of the five-day game.
After Tuesday’s four-wicket loss, England captain Andrew Strauss told reporters: "I don’t know why he’s turned it down. We need to find out what the reasons are and then make an informed decision.
"If ‘Freddie’ is committed to playing for England, he’s still a great asset for us in the shorter forms of the game."
Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who recently announced his retirement from international Twenty20s, was sympathetic, saying: "You can’t begrudge players like Flintoff doing that, his body has forced him into (Test) retirement.
"It’s inevitable it is going to happen – the number of tournaments around the world, you can’t play everything."
"If he’s not playing Test cricket for England, his contract wouldn’t have been worth that much. It’s a challenge for administrators…will England continue to pick him?"
Flintoff has reportedly been the target of interest from domestic sides in Australia and South Africa.
Earlier this year, Flintoff played for Chennai Super Kings in the wealthy Indian Premier League (IPL), sustaining a knee injury in the process, and already has the required no-objection certificate (NOC) from the ECB for the 2010 edition, which allows him to play there for a minimum of three weeks.
However, the refusal of Flintoff, whose career has been blighted by four ankle and two knee operations, to sign an incremental contract means he has more leverage in deciding where and when he plays rather than being at the beck and call of England coach Andy Flower.
Speaking from Dubai, where he is recuperating from an operation on his right knee, Flintoff said: I was flattered to receive the offer of an incremental contract from the ECB, which I wasn’t really expecting, but at this stage of my career I don’t think I need to be told when to play and when to rest.
"I am 31, I have played international cricket for 11 years and know my body’s capabilities."
He added: "I am grateful to the ECB for the all the financial support they have given me to help in my rehabilitation.
"Their decision to pay for (physiotherapist) Dave Roberts’s continued expertise to aid my recovery has been invaluable."
Flintoff, provided his rehabilitation goes smoothly, hopes to return to international cricket on England’s tour of Bangladesh in February, play for Chennai in the IPL and then compete in the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in the West Indies which starts in April.