England take no risks as Anderson misses tour

The official explanation was that the condition was pre-existing and Anderson would continue his rehabilitation

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Without saying a word, England confirmed last night that they are taking no chances with their most prized assets ahead of the World Cup and the Ashes next year.

The team’s premier fast bowler, Jimmy Anderson, was withdrawn from the imminent one-day tour of Sri Lanka with a knee injury.

The official explanation was that the condition was pre-existing and Anderson would continue his rehabilitation. An England and Wales Cricket Board statement said that he experienced discomfort during the summer and will now have a graded return to bowling in the next two months to prepare for the World Cup, which starts in Australia in February.

Unofficially, it shows that England dare not take a risk on the man who leads their attack and last summer returned to his peak form. His fitness will be crucial to their chances both in the World Cup and against Australia in the home summer which follows.

No fast bowler ever takes the field without a niggle and Anderson’s left knee is typical – it suffers constant strain in the delivery stride. Although he was willing to carry it throughout the summer – he last played for England in a one-dayer on 5 September and for Lancashire in a failed attempt to save them from relegation in the Championship a week later – a tour of Sri Lanka in stifling heat on unresponsive pitches was deemed surplus to requirements.

Instead, Anderson will go to South Africa with the England Performance Programme. It is hoped that he could be fit to return for the triangular one-day series in Australia in January, before the World Cup.

England will also certainly have the 2015 summer’s Ashes in mind. Anderson, with 380 Test wickets, needs only four to overtake Sir Ian Botham and have England’s largest haul. He will not be replaced in the party for Sri Lanka – but then the selectors might think he is irreplaceable.