Nottingham:Australia captain Ricky Ponting sympathised with Andrew Flintoff's decision to go freelance but said the all-rounder's international future was now open to question.
Flintoff, who retired from Test cricket last month after England's Ashes triumph because he said his injury hit body could no longer stand the strain of the five-day game, announced on Tuesday he was turning down the offer of a second tier, incremental, contract from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
"It's an individual decision and you can't begrudge the players doing that, especially someone like Flintoff who's played 70-odd Test matches and whose body has basically forced him out of Test cricket," Ponting, who recently retired from international Twenty20s, said here on Tuesday.
"It's inevitable it is going to happen," added Ponting after a man-of-the-match winning 126, in only his second game back after a post Ashes break, during Australia's four-wicket one-day international win over England here at Trent Bridge - a victory that put them 5-0 up in a seven-match series.
"There are so many tournaments that are being played at different times around the world and you can't play everything."
Flintoff, along with England team-mate Kevin Pietersen, was the best paid player in this year's lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) after being auctioned for 1.55 million dollars to appear for the Chennai Super Kings.
The 31-year-old pace bowler and hard-hitting batsman still has another IPL campaign left on his Chennai deal.
The ECB incremental contract is worth only approximately 30,000 pounds (49,461 dollars), considerably less than the best central contract available to England players still available for Test selection.
"We know what sort of dollars are being thrown around with the IPL," said Ponting. "It will be interesting to see what happens with him (Flintoff).
"Will England continue to pick him or not?"
Flintoff is by no means assured of continuing IPL riches following a change in tournament rules designed precisely to stop players from becoming free agents by opting out of national board contacts.
Flintoff already has clearance in the form of an ECB no-objection certificate (NOC) to play in the 2010 IPL but needs fresh releases from English chiefs for all subsequent editions.
New Zealand's Brendon McCullum had, according to Lalit Modi, the commissioner of the IPL, tried to become a Flintoff-like freelance to get a better deal before a "loophole" was closed earlier this month.
"McCullum was trying to become a free agent (by threatening not to sign a New Zealand central contract), he wanted to play in the entire IPL and there was a loophole there," Modi told Wednesday's Sydney Morning Herald.
"But that loophole was closed during our meeting on September 2 when we introduced a new amendment for players who don't have a national contract."
Modi added: "The new amendment reads that international players need NOCs from their home boards 'for two years post-retirement/not in contract'."
"We want to ensure people continue to play for their countries. Nobody is going to budge on the NOC issue, it was designed so players do not try to become free agents."
Flintoff, who again insisted he remained committed to being a one-day player for both Lancashire and England, said in a statement on Tuesday his decision would help him in his goal to become the best limited overs player in the game.
His move opens up the possibility of appearances in domestic competitions in Australia and South Africa, with Flintoff reportedly a target for leading teams in both countries.
His refusal to sign an incremental contract means Flintoff, who has undergone four ankle and two knee operations, 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: "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."