Four days after declaring himself fit, Kevin Pietersen was forced to miss England’s opening match in the World Twenty20 last night. His dramatic withdrawal only an hour before the toss left the team in disarray and provoked immediate speculation about his presence in the Ashes, which are now only 31 days away.
Pietersen suffered a recurrence of the Achilles injury which had already caused his absence from the one-day series against West Indies but which he and England’s medical team were certain had been successfully treated. He had a scan and cortisone injection in his lower back which it was revealed might be a contributory factor. But nobody had any firm answers.
The timing could hardly have been worse. It made Pietersen’s bullish statements at Lord’s on Monday look daftly optimistic and the England team’s medical staff were hardly covered in glory. His injury, which meant England had hastily to reconstruct their team by introducing the out of form Robert Key, coincided with a glum start to the tournament.
The opening ceremony was severely abridged because of rain. It meant that while spectators were able to watch the Duke of Kent officially open the tournament after a speech from David Morgan, the president of the International Cricket Council, they were denied the opportunity of hearing the pop singer, Alesha Dixon. It was not what the ICC or the English organisers required.
England supplemented the bizarre nature of the early proceedings by deciding to drop Graeme Swann, man of the match in a Lord’s Test only a month ago. In his place they introduced the untried leg spinner Adil Rashid who was not in the squad until it was finally announced that Andrew Flintoff’s knee injury would rule him out of the entire tournament.
A similar fate probably now awaits Pietersen and considering the pair remain England’s most significant players hard questions are entitled to be asked. These will concern both the treatment of their injuries and their controversial participation in the Indian Premier League, which, it did not require hindsight to judge, was a huge gamble. Players, their representatives and the England and Wales Cricket Board can all take some of the responsibility.
Pietersen is not definitely out of England’s match against Pakistan tomorrow but it is difficult to believe that he could be risked either in that or the rest of the tournament. After the uncertainty surrounding the progress of Flintoff’s injury, England would look foolish if they took any risks with Pietersen, calculated or others. Their chief medical officer, Nick Peirce, said: “Kevin had been making excellent progress with the management of his right Achilles injury and had shown substantial improvement.
“However today he has experienced a degree of pain which medical assessments have suggested may be related to some aggravation from his lower back.”
Pietersen said only last Monday that although he was not fully fit he was definitely improving daily. “There are no worries, I’ll definitely be fit to play.”
If that made him a hostage to fortune the prognosis now can hardly be encouraged by his insistence that he had regularly played through pain in the past year. He mentioned the cases of broken ribs, fractured fingers and a sore back. It might be deduced that this then is serious.
Pierce added: “He will undergo a scan and an injection today to help determine any contribution from his lower back and to provide both short term and long term benefit. Provided this injection has the expected result Kevin may well be available for selection for England’s match against Pakistan.”