Tim Paine, Australia's heir-apparent wicket keeper, has been ruled out for four months and faces an uncertain future in the game after being told his battered right index finger requires extensive bone-graft surgery.
A series of breaks to Paine's right index finger, starting with an exhibition Twenty20 match in Brisbane last summer, and unsuccessful surgery to repair the damage in September, has left the 27-year-old with a digit not up to the rigours of batting and keeping wicket.
The new round of surgery, which takes place today, will seek to correct damage left by the use of plates that have broken when Paine has attempted to resume training.
"Tim Paine's recovery from surgery for a fractured finger has been slower than expected," Cricket Australia's doctor Trefor James said. "Tim has been reviewed by specialists and CA medical staff.
"It is clear that the fracture has not healed as expected and the best course of action is for Tim to undergo further surgery. This will be performed today (Wednesday) and it is expected that Tim will be unavailable for a further 3-4 months."
Paine played four Tests in 2010 and acquitted himself well, making scores of 92 and 59 in the Mohali and Bangalore matches against India. He was dropped to make way for the return of Brad Haddin at the start of last year's Ashes summer but he has been widely considered a future leader of the national team.
He captained Australia A on a successful mid-2011 tour of Zimbabwe, but is now unsure of when or if he will be back in contention for a Test spot. Paine was also captain of the Hobart Hurricanes Twenty20 team.
"I'm obviously disappointed with this latest setback. I am hopeful that I can get the injury right and recover fully so that I can get back to playing cricket in the near future," Paine said.
His absence will widen the window for the Victoria 'keeper Matthew Wade to press for Haddin's spot in the national team.