Watson, Bracken and Hopes out of IPL
Shane Watson, Nathan Bracken and James Hopes have been stood down from the closing stages of the IPL by Cricket Australia medical staff. While Andrew Symonds (Deccan Chargers), Brett Lee (Kings XI Punjab) and David Hussey (Kolkata Knight Riders) were cleared to fly to South Africa immediately after Australia's Twenty20 loss to Pakistan in Dubai on Thursday, Bracken and Hopes were ordered to rest ahead of the World Twenty20 in England next month.
Watson, meanwhile, was initially cleared to feature for the Rajasthan Royals, but suffered a mild groin strain while batting against Pakistan in the series finale. "He will return home for scans and rehabilitation and his condition will be reviewed over the coming weeks to determine his availability for the ICC World Twenty20," said Australian team doctor Trefor James.
Bracken had hoped to join the Bangalore Royal Challengers for the final fortnight of the IPL, but has been sidelined by a minor knee injury. Hopes, too, had harboured ambitions to play in the lucrative Twenty20 league with the Kings XI Punjab, only to be stood down after a medical assessment by James on Thursday.
"Hopes and Bracken have existing knee problems and it has been decided that a period of rest and rehabilitation over the next two to three weeks will be the best preparation for both players ahead of the World Twenty20," James said. "With the amount of cricket the one-day international players have played since early January this year and given the Australian team's schedule for the next 12 months, it is important we continue to manage player workloads and injury concerns."
The arrival of the Australian contingent in South Africa could have a significant impact on the IPL in the build-up to the finals. Symonds' powerful middle-order presence will no doubt be welcomed by second-placed Deccan, while the addition of Lee should significantly boost Punjab's chances of qualifying for the play-offs.
Symonds could make his 2009 IPL debut as early as Saturday, with Deccan to take on Punjab in Kimberley. The allrounder signed with Deccan for US$1.35 million in the inaugural IPL auction.
"He has obviously missed a lot of cricket in the last little while, and he's keen to get out there and play as much as he can," Matt Fearon, Symonds' agent, said. "He has loved being back around and performing with the Australian team, and he is looking forward to getting over to South Africa to join the boys at Deccan."
Australia's chairman of selectors, Andrew Hilditch, said the IPL could prove of assistance to a player like Lee, who is short of match practice after ankle surgery. "As far as I know, Brett will be heading to the IPL to get some more cricket in," Hilditch said. "He is keen to get in some more overs before the World Twenty20 and the Ashes."
Shaun Tait, meanwhile, appears an unlikely starter for the Rajasthan Royals, despite recently stating his intention to play the final few weeks of the IPL. Tait is recovering from hamstring tendonitis, and Alex Kountouris, Australia's physiotherapist, was doubtful he would be ready to play in the next few weeks.
"It is still very early in his rehab," Kountouris said. "He has only had three bowls in four months. When I spoke with him, we were fully concentrating on playing for Australia, and weren't really thinking about the IPL. I'm not sure what his intentions are there, but my feeling is that he is still a little bit away from where he needs to be.
"We're quite keen to get him up to the Centre of Excellence so he can be on stand-by in case somebody falls over at the World Twenty20. We might also try and get Stuart Clark up there to get some more bowling into him before the Ashes."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo