England take time with injuries
David Graveney insists England will not repeat the mistakes of the past and rush their injured players back into action this summer.
England’s chairman of selectors has vivid memories of the last tour to Australia in 2002-3, when injuries contributed to a 4-1 series defeat after the tourists gambled on the fitness of a host of players.
Andrew Flintoff and Darren Gough, who were just returning from injury, played no part in the series while they also lost Simon Jones to a horrific knee injury and Ashley Giles broke a wrist batting in the nets.
With another Ashes tour and a World Cup looming this winter, not to mention home Test and one-day series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan and the ICC Champions Trophy before that, England cannot afford to make any mistakes with their current injury list.
“If you look back to the last time we went to Australia, we were trying to force the issue,” conceded Graveney, who will announce the squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka at Lord’s on May 7.
“We were trying to take players who were just coming back from injury and nature will only take its natural course.
“This time our objective is to deliver our best team as fit as possible for next winter.”
England are expected to be without captain Michael Vaughan, who is still recovering from knee surgery, while left-arm spinner Giles is yet to start running again following a hip operation before Christmas.
Fast bowler Steve Harmison, who missed the
one-day series in India with a shin injury, has also admitted he is doubtful for the opening Test at Lord’s on May 11, but Simon Jones and Marcus Trescothick are expecting to prove their fitness for selection after lay-offs.
It means Graveney and his fellow selectors will have to consider other alternatives, probably drawn from the patched-up side that bounced back memorably to draw the series against India with victory in Mumbai.
“People do get injured and you have to give them space and time to recover,” stressed Graveney.
“Australia have missed two or three players from time to time, but to lose five players all at once is a lot.
“It’s very frustrating as selectors but I also look at it as giving other players a chance.
“The side that played in India is a bit of a glimpse of what the England side might be in five years time.
“It’s a great compliment to county cricket that players are able to go in there and do well.
“It speaks volumes for the spirit within that group of players and the way that Michael Vaughan has moulded the atmosphere so that young guys can walk in and feel comfortable in their surroundings, because that didn’t use to happen.”
Aside from organising various replacements for the senior tour, Graveney has also used his winter to provide support for
long-term casualties like Giles, who may yet require a further operation.
“Ashley is a pretty key guy in all forms of cricket and has shown that over the past four of five years,” Graveney said.
“Sometimes you don’t realise that until someone comes out of the team and then you’re trying to replace them.
“I’ve read the same reports about him as everybody else and there is a fine line between being realistic and pessimistic.
“Ashley has had this condition for a period of time and it’s obviously a worry for him.
“If you have an operation to resolve your problem and regrettably you break down again then that’s a worry for anyone.
“At this period of time he needs support and it’s not for me to speculate about his fitness
“My job is to underline to Ashley how important he has been and will continue to be for English cricket and give us as much support as we can.”