England one short… a wannabe and an umpire upgrade?

England’s World Cup preparations could conceivably include having to field just 10 players in their warm-up games – with coach Andy Flower favourite to supplement the team as substitute fielder. The bizarre prospect of not being able to name a full XI against Canada and/or Pakistan in Fatullah, on February 16 and 18 respectively, has been thrown up through a combination of unavailability and lingering injury problems. Under official tournament rules – agreed to by all boards in the Members Participation Agreement – countries can only select players from their 15-man squads for any match,  practice or otherwise. Even if Paul Collingwood, who has been granted paternity leave along with Graeme Swann, makes the team flight on February 12 as it appears he now plans to do, the injury concerns offer little leeway. Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad and Ajmal Shahzad are all aiming to be back to fitness for the opening Group B contest against the Netherlands on February 22, with any earlier return a distinct bonus. As things stand that would mean the side picking itself and with illness a daily threat to participation in Asia, and further niggles inevitable following more than three months of solid cricket for some, it increases the probability of turning up one short. Flower, 42, is of course Zimbabwean by birth but is a British citizen and would therefore qualify to fill in under the International Cricket Council’s protocol, which allows members of the coaching staff to augment the squad in such times of crisis. Neither would it be the first time that it occurred at an ICC event in the same part of the world: at the 2006 Champions Trophy, West Indies media manager Imran Khan was named as 12th man against Australia at the Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, due to a combination of illness and injury. Although Khan did not field, he fulfilled the other duties during the 10-run win.

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Wannabe rock star Steven Crook has found a way back into the first-class game after being taken on by Middlesex. Former Lancashire and Northamptonshire all-rounder Crook concentrated on music after his poor injury record contributed to his release from Wantage Road at the end of the 2009 season. The 27-year-old earned greater recognition for his front-man exploits than his on-field prowess two summers ago, after it was revealed that his band Juliet The Sun had provided England’s dressing room anthem Time for Heroes during the Ashes triumph. But Crook – who played with James Anderson at Old Trafford, having qualified, despite his Australian birth, via a British passport – is intent on giving a professional career in cricket one last shot.

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Rob Bailey has been added to the ICC’s international panel of umpires. The upgrade for the popular Bailey, 47, will allow him to stand for one match, as well as carry out third umpire duties for the others, in a one-day international series during the 2011 season. He is the latest of a recent batch of English officials to make the step up to the highest level, following the promotion of Richard Kettleborough and Richard Illingworth over the past couple of years. Another, former England Test opener Tim Robinson, is also making rapid progress, having gained greater exposure recently when he officiated in Karnataka’s quarter-final victory over Madhya Pradesh – a match which included Christmas Day in its play – and Rajasthan’s semi-final ousting of Tamil Nadu, in India’s Ranji Trophy.

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