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July 24, 2009
Kevin Pietersen's participation in the IPL will come under further scrutiny after it emerged his Achilles injury deteriorated while on duty with the Royal Challengers Bangalore. According to Evan Speechly, Bangalore's assistant coach and physiotherapist, Pietersen experienced pain in his right Achilles while jogging along Durban's beachfront during the IPL. He has experienced ongoing problems in ensuing series against West Indies and Australia, and this week underwent surgery that will sideline him from the final three Tests of the Ashes series.
"He woke up one morning and decided to go for a run along the beachfront in Durban," Speechly told Cricinfo. "It was after that he felt the twinge.'
The ECB, who dispatched senior medical officers Simon Timson and Nick Pierce to South Africa to monitor their IPL-contracted players, outlined a revised training plan for Pietersen, the Bangalore captain, which the franchise's medical staff strictly enforced. An ECB spokesperson yesterday described as "blatantly untrue" suggestions Pietersen had been ordered to refrain from running during his stint with Bangalore.
"Pietersen reported to Loughborough before he flew out to South Africa and was passed fit to join up with Bangalore," the spokesman said. "ECB medical staff sent Bangalore a fitness programme and at no stage did Kevin Pietersen do anything to contradict that and at no stage was he told not to go running.
"Kevin Pietersen is the most diligent and responsible of trainers and prides himself on his physical fitness and preparation for playing cricket. The ECB medical staff hold him as one of the best examples of a player who does everything within his power to achieve maximum fitness to play cricket."
Player participation in the IPL has been a sensitive topic in England since Andrew Flintoff damaged his knee playing for Chennai Super Kings; an injury that ruled out of the Test and one-day series against West Indies as well as the ICC World Twenty20. The issue also flared in Australia when Matthew Hayden, another Chennai-contracted player, damaged his Achilles during the inaugural IPL season in 2008, and missed the ensuing tour of the Caribbean.
Hayden's Achilles eventually recovered, but the same could not be said of his international career. The veteran opener averaged just 23.93 in nine Tests after returning from the injury and, despite harbouring ambitions to play through to the end of this Ashes series, announced his retirement in January. Despite the obvious setback, Hayden did not believe the IPL posed an undue health risk to players.
"It was unfortunate," Hayden told Cricinfo during the 2009 IPL. "I picked up that injury doing a running session because I wanted to be spot on for that West Indies tour. I came back [from the IPL] on a real high, not realising how bad the injury was. It didn't feel all that serious, and I wasn't expecting to miss any games let alone an entire Test series, so it wasn't until later that I realised what I was actually dealing with. But I don't look back on [the inaugural IPL] as a negative. If anything I found that really reinvigorated me and revived my enthusiasm, because you could feel you were a part of taking cricket to another level."
Meanwhile, Sean Morris, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, warned the ECB against persecuting nationally-contracted players who sought to pursue opportunities in lucrative domestic Twenty20 leagues. Morris said that the crammed international schedule was already pushing players, including Flintoff, towards early international retirements and into the seductive embrace of tournaments such as the IPL.
"I can see the day of the freelance cricketer with players turning down England contracts," Morris told the Telegraph. "That's the way the market will go and it's very dangerous. Andrew Flintoff has already made the choice to concentrate on one-day cricket and others will make similar decisions earlier and earlier in their careers. That does not bode well for the ECB, the PCA or anybody. We all want the best players to appear in Test cricket.
"I've seen the ICC's Future Tours Programme from 2012-2020. It's unbelievable. The players won't be able to do it. England will need two squads picked on a rotation basis. Fast bowlers in particular are going to be broken. Players will be drained mentally as well as physically."
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