Tummy trouble puts Pietersen in frame for captaincy

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No sooner had England arrived in Sri Lanka than fast bowler Stuart Broad went down with a severe stomach bug. The obvious inference was that it must be an extreme reaction to being hit for six sixes in an over by the India batsman Yuvraj Singh in the World Twenty20 in South Africa last week.

Becoming the first seamer to receive such dismissive treatment in front of a full house at a major tournament would be enough to cause anybody tummy ache. Before team medics could pin down the exact cause, however, Broad was joined by several colleagues which seemed to rule out the six sixes theory.

The other players suffering are captain Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook and Luke Wright. All should have recovered by the time the one-day series of five matches begins in Dambulla on Monday but there is a worry that a virus is now running through the side. Cook, for one, was making the point yesterday that it is better to go down now rather than when the serious business begins. The team management may take a similar view about Collingwood's ailment.

He does not have an official vice-captain and it emerged that no player has yet been designated in his absence. The England coach, Peter Moores, said: "There are two or three names among the senior players who we have mentioned but we haven't decided on it yet. The bug seems to last 24 to 36 hours so we're hoping Paul will be fit."

It still leaves the intriguing prospect of the warm-up match in Moratuwa tomorrow. Should Collingwood fail to make it in the debilitating, humid conditions, England would have to nominate a replacement. The obvious candidate because of his seniority and the fact that he is the best player is Kevin Pietersen.

If he was overlooked it could be seen only as a slight on his leadership skills. Pietersen has already put his hand up for the job. Last week during England's defeat against India in Durban he started waving his arms from long off and moving the field. Collingwood, at long on, could be seen shaking his head, though later said he did not mind.

Failure to appoint Pietersen would be a bold, clear and risky statement. The other possibles would probably be Cook, whom many view as a future Test captain but who has not yet nailed down his place in the one-day side, and Ian Bell, who may be diffident but was a successful England A captain.