Vaughan puts World Cup first by flying home

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The Independent Online

Michael Vaughan has reluctantly accepted that he will not play any further cricket in Australia this winter. Vaughan has had the most frustrating of times, forced to hang around the periphery of the England team, and he has acknowledged that it is in his and the team's interest to return home and rest the hamstring injury that has restricted his involvement in the Commonwealth Bank one-day series.

England's medical staff expect their captain to be fully fit for the World Cup next month but the country will hold its breath.

Vaughan's fitness record has been dreadful since he damaged his right knee in Pakistan 16 months ago, and his absence has had a significant influence on the side's performance - but despite Vaughan being injury prone, England will take him to the Caribbean. It is a risk but it is worth taking.

In the four limited-overs games Vaughan played in Australia, he highlighted his value to the team. Two of England's three wins here have been achieved with him in charge and it is questionable whether they would have reached this morning's first final against Australia without his input. Vaughan is the seventh England player to leave the tour and he will return to England tomorrow. Andrew Flintoff will once again take charge of the side.

"It has been very disappointing on this tour to have no problems with my right knee and then a hamstring [injury] comes about," said Vaughan. "I am desperate to play but we have to look at the future and certainly the next few weeks with the World Cup in mind. The medical staff have told me there is absolutely no doubt I will be on the plane for the World Cup."

A player who will be hoping to join Vaughan on the flight to St Vincent on 2 March is Stuart Broad, the exciting fast bowler from Leicestershire. Broad was called up to the squad to act as cover after Jon Lewis and Chris Tremlett returned home with injuries. Broad arrived in Melbourne yesterday morning and his place in the team will depend on the nature of the pitches on which the finals are played. His aim, understandably, is to do enough while he is here to grab one of the final World Cup spots.

"I never thought my World Cup chances had passed me by," Broad said. "I just looked at each day, trained hard at the Academy knowing that I'd always have a chance. I'd love to go the same way as Ed Joyce, Jamie Dalrymple and Ravi Bopara in moving from the Academy to play for England this winter.

"Chances always arise and it is a question of whether you've prepared enough to grab it. I haven't looked at my rivals for the World Cup 15. I just try and take wickets, bowl my way and let the hierarchy make the decisions. I've gotten stronger and feel like I've improved over the course of the winter. I am just looking forward to getting out there and bowling again."

Broad played five one-dayers for England against Pakistan at the end of last summer but he has been overlooked for each of the initial tour squads. " I was disappointed to be left out of the original squad," he said, "but I went back to the Academy and got myself fitter and stronger, and now I'm back in Australia in a great position.

"I'd have loved to have a crack at the Aussies earlier - whether during the Ashes or whatever - but I've got an opportunity now. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience against Pakistan in the summer, we had some good crowds and there was a brilliant atmosphere. It gave me a real buzz and I felt I coped all right. I could have done a lot better and hopefully the next chance I get I can improve on that."

* West Indies all-rounder Marlon Samuels has denied passing information to a bookmaker before a one-day defeat by India in Nagpur last month. "I have not done anything wrong," Samuels told the Times of India newspaper. On Wednesday, Indian police claimed to have tapes of Samuels revealing team information but added that there was no evidence of money being involved.

Ponting doubts commitment of 'laid-back' captain Flintoff

Ricky Ponting, whose Australia captaincy was put under scrutiny in the aftermath of the 2005 Ashes, entered England's leadership debate yesterday by observing that Andrew Flintoff was not wrapped up in the role.

"There has always been talk over the years of different people who have found the extra responsibility of captaincy has not sat well with them," Ponting said. "I said right through the summer that Andrew has always seemed to me to be a fairly laid-back and relaxed sort of guy that probably doesn't spend all day and night thinking about the responsibilities of captaincy.

"Whether it consumes him when he is on the field I don't know."