England in crisis as captain flies home

England's preparations for tomorrow's first Test against India are in total disarray after Michael Vaughan and Simon Jones were forced to return home with knee injuries. Vaughan's withdrawal from the tour became inevitable when he failed a fitness test on his chronic right knee, but the departure of Jones, who collapsed in agony while running in to bowl, was the depressing finale to one of the most debilitating weeks a touring England side can have suffered.

The responsibility of raising the morale of a ravaged team, in the hope they will put on a fighting display over the coming week, has been placed on the broad shoulders of Andrew Flintoff, who was named as England captain yesterday afternoon. Flintoff looks set to lead a team containing three uncapped players. Alastair Cook, the 21-year-old Essex opener, is sure to make his Test debut and the loss of Jones could lead to Ian Blackwell and Monty Panesar being awarded their first England caps. If England come out of Wednesday's match with anything but a defeat it will be a remark0able achievement. India are an outstanding side at home and only three touring teams have won a series here in the last 18 years.

Vaughan and Jones have both undergone surgery in the past six months and will be reluctant to go under the knife again. Vaughan returned home early from England's pre-Christmas tour of Pakistan to have an operation on the same knee and Jones had a bony growth removed from his right ankle at the end of the summer.

Yet each seems destined for further surgery. Vaughan needs to sort his right knee out once and for all ifhe wishes to end speculation that the condition may bring a premature end to his career. And Jones will undoubtedly follow. The fast bowler was in tears as he made his way to the dressing-room. Sadly, cartilage does not heal itself and the tear he suffered needs to be repaired.

Dr Peter Gregory, the England and Wales Cricket Board's chief medical officer, did not sound particularly optimistic when he spoke of Vaughan's predicament. "I fear for Michael, in that he may have to have further surgery so shortly after he last had it," he said. "At the moment we do not know exactly what is wrong with his knee but I hope it is something that can be cured by a simple injection or physiotherapy, but those possibilities are not looking so good at the moment."

It was slightly ironic that Vaughan's chances of playing in the Test were looking promising when Jones collapsed in a heap. The England captain had shown little discomfort during a 30-minute net, but in Test match cricket you cannot play a substitute. You have to run between the wickets and field too, and it is the twisting and turning associated with this which proved too much.

Marcus Trescothick's hastily arranged flight home to sort out family issues brings the tally of players leaving India to three. It has also resulted in England fielding a very inexperienced batting line-up. Flintoff's promotion, and England's plight, has caused the all-rounder to abandon plans to return home to attend the birth of his second child. Flintoff was expected to miss the third Test to be at his wife's side but he will now return home for a couple of days at the end of the Test series.

There were a couple of encouraging signs though for England. Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Shaun Udal and Liam Plunkett successfully came through fitness tests and are available for selection, and Flintoff had a huge smile on his face throughout his press conference.

Flintoff admitted that the circumstances of taking charge were far from ideal but he looked absolutely thrilled to be doing the job. "I have always wanted to captain England, but obviously I would have hoped it to be in different circumstances to these," he said.

"But the problems give opportunities to young players and we have the chance to show the character and strength that exists in this England side. Despite the problems we have had, the lads are looking forward to the challenge of playing against India and a lot of the things that have happened will be forgotten once we walk over the white line."

Flintoff's experience as a captain is limited. He captained England Under-19s as a youth and has been in charge of Lancashire on a handful of occasions. He will make mistakes over the coming Test matches but he can gain comfort from the fact that every player will be trying their utmost to make his tenure successful. It is the least they can do for a player who gives the team his all every time he pulls on an England shirt.

There is a fear that the workload created by the captaincy may prove to be too much for England's most influential player. "Yes, I bat, bowl and field at slip but it is not something I am worried about. Who knows, the extra responsibility may bring out the best in me. I will be a very proud man when I walk out in front of 10 players on Wednesday morning." The 10 who join Flintoff will be finalised today but Cook will take his place in a top five boasting fewer Test caps than their new captain.

The loss of Jones should lead to a change in strategy. England would have been hoping to put India's glittering batting line-up under pressure with their four fast bowlers, but it is a tactic only worth employing if all the bowlers are up to it. Plunkett is still raw and James Anderson has just arrived in the country, and this will encourage England to play two spinners. Shaun Udal is England's most experienced slow bowler but the least likely to play. Blackwell's batting offers depth to a fragile batting line-up and Panesar's flight should give Flintoff a few more attacking options.

India have no such problems. They will select from a full squad and England's plight may encourage them to play a fifth bowler at Mohammad Kaif's expense.

India (probable): R Dravid (c), V Sehwag, W Jaffer, S Tendulkar, V V S Laxman, M Kaif, M Dhoni, I Pathan, A Kumble, H Singh, S Sreesanth.

Who's out and who's in

* OUT Michael Vaughan (capt) Knee injury; Flying back to England

* OUT Marcus Trescothick (vc) Personal problems; Back in England

* OUT Ashley Giles Recovering from hip operation; Still in England

* OUT Simon Jones Knee injury; Flying back to England

* IN Kevin Pietersen; Recovered from back injury

* IN Paul Collingwood; Recovered from back injury

* IN Liam Plunkett; Recovered from heel injury

* IN Shaun Udal

Recovered from gastric flu

ENGLAND TEAM (probable): A Cook (Essex), A J Strauss (Middlesex; vc), I R Bell (Warwicks), K Pietersen (Hampshire), P D Collingwood (Durham), A Flintoff (Lancashire, capt), G O Jones (Kent, wkt), I Blackwell (Somerset), M J Hoggard (Yorkshire) S J Harmison (Durham), M Panesar (Northants).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map