While England's problems show no signs of abating – Kevin Pietersen yesterday returned to hospital after complications following an operation on his Achilles and Graeme Swann spent the day in bed with a stomach bug – Australia announced that captain Ricky Ponting is to take a break after the Ashes as part of his "workload management."
Pietersen developed an infection in the scar tissue from the surgery and was put on a drip in hospital. He is expected to be discharged today. The 29-year-old had originally faced a six-week recuperation period, but may now may miss all of the seven-match one-day series against Australia next month. England's first game in the Champions Trophy is on 25 September and that seems the earliest he might sensibly return. Pietersen first suffered the injury in the West Indies and then aggravated it playing in the IPL, where Andrew Flintoff also picked up an injury.
Australia's careful husbandry of their most valued resource makes for a telling comparison with England's handling, or attempted handling, of their leading men. Ponting will sit out the two Twenty20 internationals and the start of the one-day series against England, with Michael Clarke, his heir apparent, taking over the captaincy. "Ricky Ponting is having his workload managed and will return home after the fifth Test and will miss the two Twenty20s and the start of the of the ODI series," said Andrew Hilditch, Australia's chairman of selectors. "This is the last opportunity we have to give Ricky a break until next year. The plan for him to return to Australia before rejoining the team is considered the most appropriate course of action."
The 34-year-old Ponting also sat out a one-day series against Pakistan in Dubai ahead of the Ashes but it does not mean a changing of the guard is imminent, although Clarke may retain the Twenty20 captaincy for next year's World Twenty20 given Australia's continued failings at the shortest form of the game. Mike Hussey and Nathan Bracken have been dropped from the squad that failed to impress earlier this summer with Dirk Nannes, who was part of the Netherlands side that embarrassed England, called up for the first time at the age of 33.
Nannes's selection completes a meandering journey into the national side. Born in Melbourne to Dutch parents, he only made his first-class debut for Victoria aged 29 having spent his twenties pursuing a career as a downhill skier. He played two games for the Netherlands in the World Twenty20 but that does not disqualify him from representing Australia.Reuse content