Flower counts the cost of injuries
Team director Andy Flower has admitted England’s gruelling tour of Australia is taking its toll on the players who have been involved throughout.
Graeme Swann today became the latest to return home through injury, two days after Tim Bresnan suffered the same fate. Both were among those who flew out on October 29.
Swann has responded well to treatment on a knee problem, which forced him to miss the second and third one-day internationals against Australia, but requires rehabilitation on a back strain.
Bresnan suffered a torn calf muscle during the second ODI, ruling him out of the remainder of the Commonwealth Bank Series.
Fortunately for Flower, both are expected to recover in time for England’s first World Cup game, against the Netherlands on February 22.
However, like with Bresnan, the tourists are taking no risks with Swann, whose off-spin will be key to their chances of success in the sub-continent.
"It is best for him to go home and get ready for the World Cup," Flower said. "It is a big blow because he is an important part of our side.
"He is a world-class performer and he is full of confidence after the Ashes, but these things happen.
"We are coming towards the end of a long, hard tour and certainly the physical challenges are starting to take their toll."
Flower revealed the extent of Bresnan’s injury, which means fellow seamer Steven Finn will remain with England until the end of the tour.
"Bresnan has a grade one or two tear of his calf muscle, but we expect he will also be fit for the first game of the World Cup," he added.
While Flower conceded the heavy schedule in Australia may have contributed to the injuries of his bowlers, he believes their absences will allow his back-up attack invaluable experience.
"We are going to need, with the schedules we are given these days, a squad in which we can rotate, certainly the fast bowlers," he said.
"They are the ones that are at the greatest risk of injury. One of the areas that I've been really happy with on this tour is the fact that some of our fringe players have come in and done very well."
There was good injury news today for England with Kevin Pietersen set to return for tomorrow's match in Adelaide after missing the four-wicket defeat in Sydney on Sunday with a groin injury.
James Anderson was also passed fit to resume after rejoining the squad following his scheduled three-week break following the Ashes.
Anderson was allowed to return to England to rest ahead of the World Cup and flew back to Australia on Saturday with Stuart Broad, who this morning bowled in the nets - albeit at a jog - for the first time since suffering a stomach injury in the Adelaide Test early last month.
Broad is not expected to play in the current series, however, as he focuses on his recovery in Australia.
"There are two players coming back, one from injury and one from rest," Flower confirmed.
"James Anderson is back and he's available for selection. Stuart Broad I don't anticipate being ready for any games in this series but it's good to have him out here with the squad. He's going to be an integral part of our World Cup campaign.
"Having him out here, training with us and working with our sports science people is where he should be. We anticipate him being ready for the start of the World Cup as well."
Meanwhile, questions have arisen over Matt Prior’s place at the top of the order after the wicketkeeper, who returned in the second ODI after a 10-month absence following his recall for the World Cup, registered consecutive ducks at Hobart and Sydney.
But Flower was quick to dismiss talk of England changing things too quickly, insisting Prior will be given time to find his feet again.
"He's had two low scores since he's been brought back, but on a good pitch here I'd like to see him get a good score," Flower said.
Asked if he might consider shuffling the batting order should Prior fail again, Flower replied: "We're always monitoring the situation and our responsibility is to maximise whatever resources we have got, that includes personnel and order of course.
"But we are happy with the situation at the moment. If we deem it necessary to change then of course we will make that decision."
Flower also hinted that Paul Collingwood was set to keep his place despite scoring just one on his recall on Sunday, citing the Durham man's bowling as an important factor.
"The fact that he can bowl cannily as he does is another string to his bow," Flower added. “It's what has made him a very successful one-day international cricketer for England.
"He's a brilliant fielder and he can add value with the ball. It's a factor of course. But we need him to be in form (with the bat) for the World Cup and again there's a good opportunity for him tomorrow to get that form."