As Andrew Flintoff prepares for his latest trip to the operating table Kevin Pietersen, England's other million-dollar IPL star, admitted it was a massive blow for England, but said players can't be stopped from joining the event.
"It's going to be very difficult for boards to pull players out of tournaments like this when you're playing with the best players in the world," Pietersen told the Guardian. "You can't have one rule for some and another rule for others. But it's a huge blow come the summer for England."
Flintoff flew home yesterday to have surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee which is set to keep him out of action for up to six weeks and means he misses the series against West Indies.
There was months of negotiations between the ECB and Professional Cricketers' Association before the players were finally released for the IPL, with the board eventually conceding to the demands to allow an extra week at the event despite England's crammed schedule.
Following an 11-week tour of the Caribbean, Pietersen and Flintoff - along with Paul Collingwood and Owais Shah who were also in West Indies for the duration - had a week at home before heading to South Africa. Those who don't get injured are due to return next week, shortly before the first Test against West Indies which is the beginning of a hectic summer.
Flintoff had an injury-interrupted tour of West Indies when he returned to England for two weeks to recover from a hip problem before returning for the one-day series. His latest problem is not as serious as some of his previous ailments, but means there will be some major changes to England's early-summer planning.
Dr Derek Bickerstaff, the renowned knee surgeon who operated on Michael Vaughan, told Cricinfo that although the operation is a fairly simple procedure the recovery needs to be carefully managed. "There are different levels of this sort of injury," he said. "But the recovery period should also be pretty rapid. There will probably be a week of rest followed by two weeks on the bike in the gym and by four weeks he should be training again and be ready to play after about six if everything goes well.
"There is a small risk that the operation could leave the knee susceptible to further problems because some of the shock-absorbing tissue has been removed, but it's unlikely to be a factor in the life-time of a fast bowler like Andrew Flintoff although he may suffer later in life. It shouldn't prevent him returning to action effectively."