Graeme Swann, England's leading spin bowler, returned home from India last night because his three-week-old daughter is ill. It is expected that he will rejoin the squad in time for the first Test, which starts a week today.
A team statement said: "This is a personal matter and we would ask everyone to give Graeme and his family privacy. We will not be making any further comment at this time."
Swann managed to attend the birth of his daughter, Charlotte, late last month between England tours but departed for India when she was barely a week old. When his son, Wilf, was born in February last year he had to leave for a tour the day after.
Although England seem confident that Swann will return there will obviously be no pressure for him to do so. The needs of the family will be put first and England will certainly plan for a match without him in the next few days.
Even were he to return with all well at home the logistics would not be easy. If he managed to board a flight on Saturday or Sunday it would give him as little as three days to reacclimatise.
It is potentially a more significant blow to the side than the probable absence for the match of Steve Finn. While Finn is the coming man in fast bowling terms, he has not been a regular member of the side recently. Swann, on the other hand, is expected to play a prominent role in the four-match series.
As England's main and usually solitary spinner over the past four years he has become an integral member of a four-man attack. He has been a significant taker of wickets in two winning Ashes series and, this being the subcontinent, it was expected that he would bowl the most overs.
Before the England team left for this tour Swann said: "As a spinner it stands to reason that when you go to the subcontinent people are going to look to you and how you bowl. But if we do turn up just expecting the spinner to win the series for us then we're screwed."
His absence would mean a recall for the left-arm spinner Monty Panesar, who was the first choice until Swann usurped him on the tour of the West Indies early in 2009.
Since then Panesar has slotted into the role of deputy, which only counts in Asia given England's normal dependency on their high-quality seam attack.
Panesar may adapt well to any holding role he is given without carrying Swann's attacking threat. But the team would be decidedly weaker in other areas. Swann is a handy lower-order batsman who can add runs quickly and his fielding at second slip could be vital with the new ball.Reuse content