Jones and Vaughan prepare to fly home
Simon Jones has been ruled out of the first Test at Nagpur, starting on Wednesday, after twisting his knee during net practice on Monday morning. According to an ECB news alert, a scan revealed minor cartilage damage to the left knee and he will be flying home on Tuesday.
The news comes as a body blow to an England squad that has been decimated by injury and misfortune from the moment they landed in Mumbai two weeks ago. With Michael Vaughan already ruled out of Nagpur, and Marcus Trescothick extremely doubtful after flying home for personal reasons, England are set to take the field with a new captain, Andrew Flintoff, and at least two new caps in Ian Blackwell and Alastair Cook.
Jones missed the entire tour of Pakistan before Christmas after suffering an ankle injury during the fourth Test of last summer's Ashes, and his availability for the remainder of a condensed tour of India must now be highly doubtful. His situation will be reassessed after seeing a specialist this week, but the question of who England will call upon as a replacement is hot on everyone's lips.
Liam Plunkett, who stepped into the breach in England's last Test, at Lahore in December, is the obvious replacement. Although he has been suffering from a bruised heel all week, he was reportedly put through his paces during the net session, and is expected to shake off the niggle in time for the start of the Test. England's other option would be to play two spinners, with either Shaun Udal or Monty Panesar partnering Blackwell.
It's not been a good day for England and their knees. Earlier, Michael Vaughan was ruled out of Nagpur because of a recurrence of his knee injury. He too is set to fly back to England, leaving Flintoff in charge for the opening game. England had already lost Trescothick, who returned home after citing personal reasons.
"He [Vaughan] is ruled out of this Test, but is not out of the series at this stage," Andrew Walpole, England's media manager, told reporters. "Vaughan is to return home for treatment. It is too early to say whether he will be fit for the remaining two Tests and the one-day series."
Jones didn't play against the Board President's XI after coming down with a virus and has only just returned to action after surgery on a bone spur. The England coaching staff had been trying to replicate match conditions in order to assess whether he would be able to withstand a full Test, because he had been earmarked as a key factor with his ability to produce reverse swing, although the England bowlers had struggled to reverse the ball during the warm-up matches.
The catalogue of injuries and illness is starting to resemble the calamitous 2002-03 Ashes tour, where England players dropped like flies from the moment they landed in Australia. Vaughan and Jones were among the casualties on that trip - again with knee injuries - although Vaughan did recover to smash 633 runs.
On that tour England were criticised for selecting players who were unfit, most notably Flintoff and Darren Gough, but David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, says this time England can't be blamed for the injuries. "We select our teams on the basis of professional medical advice," he said. "Vaughan took part in the first practice game and there wasn't any problem and Jones also took part in that."
Vaughan had pulled out of England's three-day game against the Indian Board President's XI at Baroda because of a soreness in his right knee, which he had first flet during their tour-opener against CCI President's XI in Mumbai.
Vaughan suffered the same injury in Pakistan last year during his side's second warm-up game, against Pakistan A at Lahore. Vaughan retired hurt after facing just one ball in England's second innings and subsequently missed the first Test at Multan.
Owais Shah joins Anderson and Cook as cover for the injury-hit senior side, with all three replacements pulled out of the ongoing match between West Indies A and England A at Antigua.