Saturday, October 31, 2009


It was the defining moment of last summer. At 2.32pm on Sunday, August 23, 2009, Freddie Flintoff dramatically ran out Australia captain Ricky Ponting and with it went the Baggy Green men's chances of retaining the Ashes.

But that image of Flintoff, in the aftermath of his direct throw from mid-on, captured the flaws of modern-day elite cricket. His face almost expressionless, chewing on his gum, arms in the air.

It should have been a moment of total joy - but it was an almost apathetic reaction, and one that said: 'I'm finished, I've had enough.'

Since the Ashes, England have had an ODI in Ireland, two (abandoned) Twenty20 Internationals with Australia, seven ODIs against the men from Down Under, followed by the ICC Champions Trophy and several of England's players were involved for their counties in the Champions League T20 in India earlier this month.

The fun never stops. But how can the very best remain at the top if there are playing so much elite cricket?

Saturday sees England's one-day players board a plane to Bloemfontein via Johannesburg. Yet before they can embark on Test cricket, players selected for all squads will have six-and-a-half weeks of tour matches, two Twenty20 Internationals and five ODIs.

England's players will arrive back home shortly after the final Test at the Wanderers finishes on January 18, 2010. They will have been away for 80-days.

Two weeks later they will fly to Bangladesh for three ODIs and two Tests. England’s best can expect to play in the Indian Premier League in April.

Then they're off to the West Indies for the 2010 World Twenty20. Then it's two tests and three ODIs against Bangladesh again on home soil, five ODIs with Australia and four Tests, two Twenty20 Internationals and five ODIs with Pakistan.

And I've yet to get on to England's tour of Australia later next year.

No wonder Andrew Strauss has hinted he will miss the Bangladesh tour. But how is that fair on anyone?

The likes of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad are regarded as England’s future in all forms of cricket. But how are their bodies, unlike Flintoff's, going to be able to keep going beyond the age of 30?

It's time for the ICC, ECB and the other national bodies to sit down and decide the future of cricket. If that means scrapping ODIs altogether so be it. The paying public want to see sportsmen at their best - not struggling to run, walk or even smile.

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