Key allrounder James Faulkner will miss the opening match of Australia's World Cup campaign against England and his subsequent involvement in the tournament remains unclear after scans confirmed he has suffered a side strain.
Faulkner, who has filled the role of Australia's specialist finisher in the final overs of his team's batting innings, sustained the injury while bowling in last Sunday's final of the Carlton Mid ODI Tri-Series in Perth.
He underwent scans in Melbourne yesterday to determine the extent of the damage, and Australia's Bupa Support Team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris confirmed today Faulkner would miss at least two weeks with "a moderate level" strain.
Kountouris described the damage as "consistent with a 'typical' fast bowling side strain injury" and indicated the allrounder was facing two weeks on the sidelines before he would be able to return to full-scale practice.
That effectively means he is no chance to play in Australia's tournament opener against England at the MCG on February 14, and faces the same battle with the clock as captain Michael Clarke to make muster for the second match against Bangladesh on February 21.
In confirming the deadline for Clarke's recovery program last month, National Selection Panel chair Rod Marsh claimed that any player who was hampered by injury come February 21 would be ruled out of the tournament and replaced in the 15-man squad.
But that stance was later changed to apply only to players who suffer 'chronic' injuries and therefore whose chances of recovering later in the tournament were compromised.
It is understood Faulkner, with no previous history of side strains, falls into the 'day-to-day' injury category and will therefore remain in contention for selection even if he has not recovered sufficiently for the Bangladesh match in Brisbane.
"He (Faulkner) will receive intensive treatment for the next two weeks before we can determine when he can return to batting and bowling," Kountouris said today.
Side strains are notoriously problematic for fast bowlers and often require four to six weeks on the sidelines for fear of suffering a recurrence if players return prematurely.
But the fact Faulkner's injury has been diagnosed as a "moderate" strain has raised some hopes that he might be able to shorten that recommended recovery time.
Faulkner will remain with the 15-man World Cup squad which assembles in Adelaide on Friday to begin their home World Cup campaign with a warm-up match against India at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday.
Under the tournament playing conditions, injured players can be replaced at any stage provided the move meets with the approval of the event's technical committee.
However, the 25-year-old Tasmanian has become such a vital part of Australia's one-day set-up over the past 18 months that the selectors and team officials are expected to give him every opportunity to regain his place during the course of the tournament.
Even though Faulkner has played just 29 ODI innings (13 of which have been unbeaten), purely on his batting credentials he already finds himself in esteemed company.
Of batsmen to have featured in 30 or more ODI innings, the group to have bettered Faulkner's current one-day batting average of 48.12 reads like a contemporary who's who of the game – Michael Hussey, Jonathan Trott, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, MS Dhoni, Michael Bevan and Hashim Amla.
And while that list might be topped by an unlikely name – the Netherlands' Ryan ten Doeschate with an average of 67 from his 32 ODI innings – none of them come close to Faulkner's current career strike rate of more than 111 runs per 100 deliveries faced.
The second-best among that select group is de Villiers whose 50-over scoring rate is a 'mere' 97.16.
Throw in his value as a middle and late-overs bowlers and he joins an even more exclusive group – those to average more than 45 with the bat and capture 50 ODI wickets or more – that includes only ten Doeschate and West Indies legend Sir Viv Richards.
Australia’s World Cup Fixtures
February 14: v England, 2:30pm at the MCG
February 21: v Bangladesh, 1:30pm at the Gabba
February 28: v New Zealand, 2:00pm at Eden Park (NZ)
March 4: v Afghanistan, 2:30pm at the WACA
March 8: v Sri Lanka, 2:30pm at the SCG
March 13: v Scotland, 2:30pm at Blundstone Arena