South African skipper Graeme Smith feels Andrew Flintoff’s surprise decision to shun England’s central contract for a ‘freelance career’ was influenced by the huge financial rewards that has come into the game recently.
Smith said the ICC needs to look into the matter seriously and plan the Future Tours Programme (FTP) in a more meaningful manner to avoid the mass exodus of players.
“I don’t think you can blame the individual, but it’s an interesting time for cricket, and interesting to see where it goes now. The crucial aspect is the decisions the leadership makes in the future. The ICC needs to give cricket a good direction, and crucial to that is how they look at the FTP because the decisions they make around that are going to be so important for the future of the game,” Smith told Cricinfo.
“I don’t think you can blame Fred for the decision that he’s made. He’s had a very successful career, and at this stage of his career, he wants to maximise his worth and really take control of things. He’s had a number of injuries, and for his own good, he needs to take control of the few years he has left in him.
“For me international cricket is still the pinnacle but you can’t hide the fact that huge financial rewards and benefits for players have come into the game in the last few years, and it’s obviously such a short career, so you want to make as much money in that time as possible,” Smith added.
He believes ICC needs to plan the FTP sensibly and feels the ongoing seven-match ODI series between England and Australia is a classic example of poor scheduling.
“With the greatest respect, the seven ODIs taking place in England at the moment are more for financial benefit than meaningful cricket.
“People want to see strength for strength; they want to see international sides trying their best in competitive tours. I mean, the Ashes was great to watch, it was competitive down to the last Test match, and speaking for myself as a cricketer, that’s how you want to see all cricket being played,” Smith said.
“But all these meaningless tours just sap your body, especially when you are playing away from home for a long time. I think the ICC needs to really look at the format going forward, and really take control of the international game,” the left-handed batsman signed off.