Kevin Pietersen may be in line for a startling recall as England captain. Such a proposition, once possessing as much feasibility as his becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, became all too apparent as England's plans for two Twenty20 matches next week were thrown into disarray yesterday.
The T20 captain, Stuart Broad, will miss the games against West Indies at The Oval, as well as the one-day series in India next month, with a torn right shoulder muscle. Eoin Morgan, the team's vice captain, has already been ruled out of cricket for 12 weeks, also with a shoulder injury.
The selectors, who intend to name their squad tomorrow, will now be casting around for somebody else to shoulder the burden, as it were. Candidates within the existing squad are hardly obvious. It is possible that the selectors might ask Alastair Cook, the 50-over captain, to step in as a short-term measure. Although Cook is not in the T20 side because he is deemed not to have quite the appropriate qualities, it would be a valid call.
Equally, Cook has already had a long summer and may need the week off before leading the team on the sub-continent. Pietersen is more at ease with himself than for some time and is also in splendid form. Although he was a reluctant convert to T20 he has shown himself to be highly adept at it.
It would need a significant rapprochement. Pietersen lost the England captaincy early in 2009 after the schism between him and the then coach, Peter Moores, was revealed. Pietersen had intended to have Moores removed and when this became public his position became untenable. Both men went, which led to the appointments of Andy Flower as coach and Andrew Strass as captain.
Broad was made T20 captain in succession to Paul Collingwood earlier this summer. At the same time, Cook was made captain of the one-day team. The loss of Broad is significant and badly timed.
Although two hurriedly arranged late season matches are hardly of any import, Broad's absence will deprive him of much needed leadership experience. England defend their World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka next September and have only a handful of matches before then.
There are other candidates for the captaincy. Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan were both in the World Twenty20 team and both are sure of their place. Neither stands out. Indeed, they may both be better as the naughty boys at the back of the class, although Swann, in particular, may have more credentials than first seems likely. If the selectors are looking for a possible future captain in any form, Ian Bell should be their man.
It is hardly what England wanted in matches they hardly wanted in the first place. The games were arranged to fill a hole in the broadcasting rights agreement which appeared after scheduled matches agreed as part of a package with the millionaire financier, Allen Stanford, were shelved. Stanford was arrested on several charges alleging fraud in the US and remains in prison awaiting trial.
Broad may or may not be fit to fly to India for the solitary T20 match at the end of October after the five one-dayers. It would hardly be worth it except for the imminence of the World championship.
The news took the edge of what should have been a happy day for English cricket. Their players dominated shortlists at the ICC annual awards in London last night, with Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott two of the four nominations in the Cricketer of the Year category. Fast bowler Jimmy Anderson joined them on the list of four for the Test player of the year and Tim Bresnan was in the running for outstanding T20 performance of the year.