England captain Michael Vaughan and pace bowler Simon Jones are returning home for treatment of knee injuries, England management announced on Monday, striking a major blow to the team just two days before the first Test against India.
Vaughan, 31, left the ground in agony on Monday after a knock in the nets, when his painful right knee did not show any signs of recovery and ruled him out of the first Test of the three-match series that begins today in the central Indian city of Nagpur.
Joining Vaughan on the flight back home will be young pace bowler Simon Jones, who was also ruled out of the Test on Monday when he twisted his right knee during net practice and damaged the cartilage.
Forced to return home midway during the tour to Pakistan last year, Vaughan's subcontinental experience soured further as his painful knee showed no improvement despite sitting out of last week's warmup game in Baroda, where England suffered an embarrassing eight-wicket defeat by the Indian Board President's XI.
Vaughan's right knee was operated upon in December. During his absence, England was beaten 3-2 in the one-dayers against Pakistan.
England's team officials confessed there was no guarantee that Vaughan would return to play in any of the Test matches -- or the seven one-day internationals that will follow the Tests.
"Vaughan is going home. It's too early to say whether he is ruled out of the series altogether," said Andrew Walpole, the England team's media manager.
With vice captain Marcus Trescothick having flown home last Saturday for personal reasons, all-rounder Andrew Flintoff found himself elevated to the role of Test captain.
"It's something I wanted to do ... I'd hoped I would but in different circumstances," Flintoff said of his first chance as England's captain.
"I'm looking forward to it, I'm proud that I'll walk out first and lead my country in a Test match," said Flintoff, adding that he had been given charge of the team as long as Vaughan is away.
Walpole said the team management didn't know if vice captain Trescothick would be joining the team again during this tour.
"It's Michael's team, I just need do carry that on for a brief time," said Flintoff, who was informed of his captaincy toward the end of England's practice session on Monday.
"One thing I'm sure is that I'm in control of my destiny now, It's something I'm not worried about," said Flintoff, whose previous captaincy experience includes a few games for Lancashire county and a couple of non-international matches during England's 2003 tour of Sri Lanka.
In his younger days, Flintoff captained England's under-19 team.
England's injury woes were aggravated on Monday as pace bowler Jones was taken from the ground for a scan that revealed the cartilage damage.
"He'll miss the Test and fly to the United Kingdom tomorrow to see a specialist," said Walpole. "His availability for the remainder of the tour will be reassessed."
These injuries, at the start of the tour, came after seasoned spinner Ashley Giles pulled out of the squad as he hadn't recovered from a hip injury.