Pietersen knee trouble flares again
Kevin Pietersen's chronic knee problem has reared at a most inopportune moment for England, forcing him to fly to Melbourne for an injection to ward off the pain that may threaten his Ashes tour.*
Having missed three Tests against New Zealand and the Champions Trophy earlier in 2013 due to the same issue, Pietersen complained of discomfort during the Australia A tour match in Hobart and on Sunday flew separately from the England team to Melbourne for a cortisone jab. The treatment should allow him to take part in the tourists' final warm-up game in Sydney from Wednesday and the Test series beyond.
Following the procedure he linked up with his team-mates and tried to calm concerns over his fitness via Twitter. "I AM FINE #relax," he posted.
Andy Flower, the England team director, is confident that the injection should settle the problem sufficiently for the remainder of the tour but it remains a worrying event for England following the calf trouble that has made the wicketkeeper and vice-captain Matt Prior a doubt for the Brisbane Test.
"Kevin has had a slight recurrence of that knee issue, and he'll be going to Melbourne for a scan and a cortisone injection - so he won't be travelling with the rest of the team," Flower said. "I don't think it's going to be a huge issue. He's had a couple of these injections before, and they've been successful.
"They've quietened the problem down, and it's obviously an ongoing issue for him. But they have been successful, and we anticipate this one being successful and anticipate him playing a full part in the Ashes tour. We anticipate him playing in the Sydney game. We're doing the jab tomorrow, so he's got a little bit of time for the jab to work before we train on Tuesday."
Pietersen made only the briefest appearance in the Hobart match, a 12-minute stay at the crease interrupted by rain delays and the lunch break on the final day before it was ended by a Trent Copeland shooter that pinned him in front of the stumps.
During the Ashes in England, Pietersen said that he would have to manage his knee for the rest of his career and he recently admitted in a video for the ECB website that he continued to harbour doubts. "I had the knee issue and I have to make sure the rehab continues," Pietersen said. "I don't want to break down, I want to play the whole series."
Cortisone injections are useful for chronic problems among cricketers, but only up to a point. Repeated use of the treatment can result in a lessening of its effectiveness, while also taking a toll on the joint itself - something Pietersen's former Hampshire team-mate Shane Warne experienced when having his overworked spinning finger repeatedly jabbed early in his career before finally resorting to surgery in 1996.
Pietersen and Prior are among key England players in their 30s and there have been suggestions that the demographic of the team could create a danger of the same mass exodus of names that Australia suffered. However, Graeme Swann, the oldest player in the squad at 34, who has suffered is own problems with his elbow, does believe the injuries signal a worrying trend.
"I don't think we need to worry about the age of the team - I think I'm the oldest,'' he said at an event to launch his tour diary videos. "It's not like we're all pushing the boundaries. If the oldest player is that age, it's not like you're all ready for the Home Guard yet.''
"Obviously, I've got my elbow that keeps rearing its head every now and then, so that's something I have to work on. Kev's got his leg issues. It is natural progression of time. As you get older, your body doesn't respond to as much work as well.
"That's why you don't see too many international sportsmen in their 40s - at least performing at the top of their game. It is something we've got to be aware of, got to stay on top of.''
*2.30pm, November 10: This story was updated with Graeme Swann's quotes
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here