London: England captain Nasser Hussain called on Monday for a reduced international schedule in order to make matches more meaningful for players and prevent them suffering from burn-out.
"There is a feeling around the game that we do want a little bit less cricket to make it more important," Hussain, 34, said. "There is so much cricket, a One-dayer here, a One-dayer there on the other side of the world, Test matches, triangular series, we don't know who is playing who now," he said. "You could be playing the ninth game of a 12-match series." England's own upcoming programme demonstrates just how hectic things have become for the game's top players. Essex batsman Hussain will lead England into seven home Test matches against Sri Lanka and India starting next month, with a triangular One-day series involving all three nations in-between. Almost immediately after the domestic campaign has been completed, there is the ICC Knockout tournament in Colombo followed by an Ashes series in Australia with the World Cup in South Africa rounding off an action-packed 10 months. The central contract system, based on the Australian model, is designed to ensure that players are fresh for England matches with national coach Duncan Fletcher deciding when they can play for their counties. For this season 11 central contracts have been awarded and there is provision for one more. But Hussain and Fletcher have repeatedly called for more central contracts in a bid to give the England hierarchy greater flexibility. However, Hussain admitted that pace bowlers such as Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff, who are contracted, could still have their careers shortened by a combination of too many matches and ruthless captains. "For young bowlers like Hoggard and Flintoff, particularly with captains like me, the extra cricket could have an effect. I bowled them into the ground last winter because you want to win every game," he said. "When you are out there you are not thinking about four years' time, you just want to win the game. "With captains like me around it will wear them down and careers will shorten. I don't know if it is good or bad for the game, better people than me will have to work that out."
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