Sport is rarely without a missing link - Wayne Rooney for instance - but English cricket is suffering because of the absence of the biggest of them all, captain Michael Vaughan.
The signs are not good for the Yorkshireman because, despite plenty of runs in his five innings back for Yorkshire in the last two weeks, he is becoming the biggest long-term worry of all for the England selectors.
His right knee visibly handicaps him when he is running between the wickets and it seems that he is little better than when he left India three months ago. He has a chronic problem which two exploratory surgical operations have failed to resolve, and he is another in a long line of England cricketers in the last few years who do not seem to benefit from a full-time medical backroom staff.
There is a doctor, plus physiotherapists, a physiolo-gist, nutritionist et al.
But lines of communication keep crossing with players such as Andrew Flintoff and Darren Gough before the last Ashes tour, and Flintoff again who has suffered twice with the same ankle and is now the recipient of conflicting advice.
Then there's the hapless Simon Jones who only last week - nearly three months after flying home from Pakistan - has had a knee operation in America, and Ashley Giles.
Go back between the Ashes Tests last summer at Trent Bridge and the Oval, when laughable hopes were expressed that Jones would play in the final Test. Giles trod water for five months before he was re-diagnosed.
What doesn't help, as Michael Atherton said yesterday, is a case like that of "Lancashire, who remain unhappy about the treatment afforded James Anderson at the fag end of the India tour, and he is now in a corset for six weeks."
Atherton added: "It seems ludicrous that England have two physiotherpists, one for Test cricket and one for one-day cricket. If the reason is that doing both is too much of a hardship then you only have to look at Errol Alcott, who retired this week as Australia's physio after 22 years in the job.
"He was there at the beginning and end of every tour providing absolute continuity of treatment."
At least the selectors may be convinced that Flintoff should not be asked to captain the side while he is still a leading bowler. Andrew Strauss takes over for the one-day series, maybe for the rest of the summer and could well be appointed for the winter, unless Vaughan makes a miraculous recovery.
Hard pitches and outfields Down Under are conditions that will undo the fittest of joints, never mind a wonky knee.
If Vaughan had been able to lead against Sri Lanka the odds are England would have won the Test series 2-0 at least, maybe a 3-0 clean sweep. Flintoff did his best but his understandable slowness to react to ever-changing match situations provided an escape hatch at Lord's for Sri Lanka who still had to bat out of their skins to crawl through it.
A batting captain always has the drop over a bowling leader when it comes to subtle changes in the field. Bowling needs full concentration, and between overs a bowler needs to think about the next six balls and plan accordingly. He cannot do that and think for his other bowlers and how best to unsettle batsmen.
Vaughan is always up to speed with the game but it seems likely that that last injury-free season was a magnificent one-off for the side and will never be repeated - at least by the same players.
Vaughan's apparent calmness under pressure was never more valuable than on that memorable Sunday morning at Edgbaston. He smiled and chatted away to his bowlers but admits he was a churning mental mess inside.
Strauss has led Middlesex and if the unthinkable happens, and Vaughan has played his last Test match, it will open a new chapter for him, his country and, most importantly of all, for coach Duncan Fletcher.
His medical team have given all the signs that they do not appreciate the crucial difference between normal muscular and ligament injuries, and those affecting bowlers. Hence the differing diagnosis and treatment of mostly stress injuries.
Michael Brearley wrote after the 1981 Ian Botham Ashes extravaganza which started when the Middlesex man returned when Botham was sacked after the Lord's Test: "To appoint him to that position again would be to run the risk of reducing the greatest English cricketer since W G Grace to mediocrity." Ditto for Flintoff.
England has a huge captaincy problem but it must never go back to Flintoff while he is a main bowler. As for Vaughan, will he become the most important missing link of all? ..SUPL: