Flintoff to rest easy if ICC reduces workload

Andrew Flintoff may not have believed it this morning, as he ran in to bowl against India in the sweltering heat here, but the International Cricket Council is attempting to reduce the amount of cricket played by the world's top players.

Flintoff is seven weeks into a 19-month period in which, fitness providing, he will get no more than six weeks' rest. At the end of England's tour of India, he can put his feet up for a couple of weeks before the preparations begin for a home Test series against Sri Lanka. Flintoff will then get a fortnight off at the end of the summer, prior to travelling back to India to play in the Champions Trophy, and then on to Australia to compete for the Ashes.

At the end of the VB one-day series in Australia, he will then get a further two weeks at home before leaving for the Caribbean and the World Cup. And at the end of the World Cup, he is straight back into a summer of Test and one-day cricket against India and the West Indies. If he is still standing by the end of it, it will be a minor miracle.

In an attempt to reduce the workload on top players, and in an effort to keep them playing in both forms of the game, the ICC has stretched its future tours programme from a five to a six-year cycle.

The new plan should give players like Flintoff greater periods of rest but it appears that greedy international cricket boards are set to use these gaps to organise further matches. The ICC's desire to hold Twenty20 tournaments in 2007 and 2009 has done nothing to alleviate the excessive demands which are placed on an international cricketer.

"We agreed to stretch out the future tours programme from five to six years to give the boards the ability to manage the amount of cricket they and their players play," said Ehsan Mani, the president of the ICC.

"But what we have found is that boards quickly fill the gaps we created."

In an effort to keep Flintoff fit, England may opt to rest him from at least one of the one-day tournaments they are scheduled to play in the coming year. But which tournament should it be? The VB series next January is crucial to England's preparations for the World Cup, and October's Champions Trophy is an international event where every team is expected to send its strongest team.

England have been drawn in the same group as Australia, India and a qualifying team - probably Sri Lanka or West Indies - at the Champions Trophy. But with the team's overseas one-day record being what it is, they may well get another week off before travelling to Australia. Whoopee.

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