England must have an Indian sign on them after this tour of mishaps, rows and false starts, took another unexpected turn yesterday, when Graham Thorpe flew back to London. Citing personal problems, Thorpe made himself unavailable for the second Test, which began here yesterday with England closing on 277 for 6, and will take no further part in the series.
The problems apparently relate to his marriage, which has been simmering for some time. The departure of Thorpe – a long-standing friend of the captain, Nasser Hussain – in mid-tour, means England are missing five players from the side that beat Sri Lanka last April. But if some of those absent might find themselves excised from certain team-mates' Christmas card lists, Thorpe has the support of both the dressing-room and the chairman of selectors. "It is a very difficult situation, and we shall be giving Graham as much time as he feels he needs," said David Graveney yesterday. "There is no pressure on him to make any decisions right now."
Marcus Trescothick, who scored 99 yesterday, was sympathetic to Thorpe's plight. "Graham's a fantastic player and losing him will be a bit of a blow, but it's given Michael Vaughan a chance," he said.
As England's best batsmen in the two overseas tours last winter, Thorpe will be badly missed. Although he nearly did not play in the first Test at Mohali, for the same reasons as prevented him playing yesterday, he still managed to score a fine 62 in the second innings.
With England's one-day side returning to India in the second week of January, there is little time to sort out matters of a delicate nature. Over the past seven years, Thorpe has had unhappy experiences abroad with England and it would be no surprise to see him opt out of the winter's remaining fixtures in India and New Zealand.
His checkered touring history began in 1995-96, when he returned home for 10 days from South Africa, after his wife, Nicky, suffered a miscarriage. A year later, he found himself the subject of a kiss-and-tell tabloid story after touring New Zealand.
Two years after that, in 1998-89, he returned from Australia before Christmas with a bad back. Although overcoming his injury in time for the domestic season, he asked to spend the next winter at home with his wife and two children, Henry and Amelia. It then took until the fifth Test of the following summer, for the selectors to forgive him.
A year ago, he appeared to be back on form in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, where his brilliant batting helped England to two famous victories.Reuse content