Gough, the only genuinely quick England bowler apart from the discarded Devon Malcolm, will be replaced by his Yorkshire colleague, the 22-year-old Chris Silverwood.
The latter is a strong young bowler of great promise, though he lost form in the first part of last season after a good first tour. He is less experienced, not so fast and more predictable, but his approach to his profession is admirably disciplined and he took four wickets in his only Test to date, against Zimbabwe last winter.
By contrast Gough, the talk of Australia three years ago until the first of his several serious injuries, has 85 Test wickets and at 27 he should be in the prime of his fast bowling life. He looks immensly strong and he is a bowler of unusual pace and flair who should have been the spearhead of the attack in the Caribbean. But he has a degenerative condition of the tendon in his left hamstring, leading to pain behind the knee when he bowls flat out.
Replacing fast bowlers on England tours seems to be almost de rigueur, and increasingly they fall by the wayside before the tour even starts. Last year it was Dominic Cork; in South Africa the winter before, Richard Johnson. In Australia in 1994-95 England had called for no fewer than six replacements by the end of the tour. This latest blow is absolutely not what was wanted after England, admittedly without Gough, defeated the West Indies twice in Sharjah before Christmas to raise their morale and confidence.
Gough missed the last two Tests against Australia last season, having taken 16 wickets in the first four. He missed Sharjah because his wife was in labour - she gave birth to their second child before Christmas -and there are those who doubted his desire to spend the next three months in the Caribbean, a suggestion he expressly denied last night.
``I've tried everything possible to get fit, so this setback is extremely frustrating and upsetting,'' he said. ``I was desperately looking forward to going on tour and being part of an England side which is on the way up. But I'm extremely optimistic I'll soon regain full fitness and be ready to play a full part for both Yorkshire and England.''
The possibility remains that Gough might join the tour later but Wayne Morton, the Yorkshire and England physiotherapist, has been personally supervising his attempt to get fully fit again since the end of the season, and the bowler himself is unlikely to make sufficient progress alone on an injury which probably needs rest as much as anything.
The only silver lining to the cloud is the hope that by missing the first of the three major series faced by England in quick succession this year - West Indies followed by South Africa at home and Australia away - the consistently injury-prone Gough might last the long-term course better.
At his best he is a handful for the finest opponents, Brian Lara included. Any temptation to go back on their original tour plans and to recall either Malcolm or Dominic Cork was firmly resisted by the England selection committee in a telephone link between David Graveney, the chairman, and Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting in Nairobi.
The latter two are only three days into the England A tour of Kenya and Sri Lanka. Dougie Brown of Warwickshire, a conspicuous success during the recent one-day campaign in Sharjah both as a personality and an all-round cricketer, will now fly to Kenya as Silverwood's replacement, with Peter Martin as first reserve.
David Lloyd, the coach, is understood to have asked the selectors for two replacements for Gough - Silverwood and Brown, who impressed him greatly in Sharjah - but it was apparently felt that with relatively few matches on the tour -and only two before the first Test at the end of this month - that would leave too many players without match practice. Lloyd was putting a brave face on the news last night.
``Darren's done everything we've asked him to do and bowled at top pace in the nets in six-over spells, but after each session he's complained of pain. It's bad luck on us and bad luck on him but it's a great opportunity for someone else. Angus Fraser, for one, will be champing at the bit. I've said before that your best eleven on paper isn't necessarily your best team.''
Graveney was understandably disappointed, too, but said: ``We remain confident we can overcome his loss and sustain the momentum we established in Sharjah. Everybody connected with the side is looking forward to what we hope will be a successful tour.''