Less than a fortnight before Australia begin their daunting Test tour of India, captain Steve Smith will undergo a nervous wait before learning whether his preparation will be hampered by an ankle injury.
Smith was this morning ruled out of the three-game Chappell-Hadlee Trophy ODI Series that begins in New Zealand next week after sustaining what is thought to be a mild “sprain” to the medial ligament in his left ankle.
Quick Single: Seven captaincy contenders to replace Smith
However, the Test skipper will undergo an MRI scan upon his return to Sydney this afternoon to ascertain whether the injury – which he suffered when he landed awkwardly while fielding during his team’s 57-run ODI win over Pakistan at Adelaide Oval last night – is more serious than first thought.
Smith remains confident that the initial prognosis of 7-10 days’ rest and treatment should see him fit to join his teammates for the week-long training session in Dubai that precedes the Qantas Tour of India.
He was due to fly to Dubai direct from NZ on February 6 with fellow members of the Test squad who are taking part in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy series, but is now likely to delay his departure for the Emirate until he is fully recovered.
But his absence from the NZ tour has caused a headache for the National Selection Panel, which will meet via a phone hook-up later today to decide a replacement player for Smith in the ODI squad.
And to announce who will take over the captaincy, given it was confirmed earlier in the week that vice-captain David Warner was to be rested from the NZ campaign in order to best prepare him for the upcoming India assignment.
Quick Single: Warner out of Chappell-Hadlee series
It is understood the selectors might give some thought to recalling Warner from his leave to lead the team against the Black Caps, or opener Aaron Finch – who was dropped from the squad for the five-match VB Series against Pakistan – could be elevated to the captaincy having been reinstated as a replacement for Warner in NZ.
“It was decided an hour ago that I’ve been ruled out of the New Zealand series,” Smith told reporters at Adelaide airport before boarding a flight home to Sydney to begin his rehabilitation.
“I’ve got a medial ligament injury to my left ankle, they think it’s a 7-10 day injury and I wouldn’t be fit for the first game (in Auckland on Monday), I’d be very unlikely for the second game (in Napier next Thursday) and a possible for the third game (in Hamilton on Sunday, February 5).
“We’ve got a lot coming up so they think it’s an opportunity to rest it and be right for India.
“It’s a bit of a shock.
“I just landed really awkwardly on my foot and I felt something straight away.
“I was a little bit concerned, I’ve never really injured my ankle like that
“I was in a bit of pain last night, I injured it and went off and got it strapped and looked at and was in a reasonable amount of pain in the field.
“I was struggling a bit after the game last night, and it was about seeing how I woke up this morning and I woke up in a reasonable amount of pain again.
“They think it’s just a medial ligament sprain but I’m having an MRI this afternoon to see if there’s any more damage.
“I’m confident I’ll be fine to train in Dubai after that and for the first Test in India.”
Smith said he was disappointed to be ruled out of the Qantas Tour of New Zealand, particularly in light of the batting form he found himself in at the end of the Australian summer.
“Every series is important and I would have loved to have been in New Zealand, I feel like I’m batting really well and when I’m batting well I want to keep going,” he said
“So it’s disappointing from that aspect but we’ve got pretty big fish to fry in India shortly, so hopefully the boys will be able to do the job in the Chappell-Hadlee Series without me.
Quick Single: Don't rule out spin trinity in India: Hussey
“I’ve got to listen to the medical staff and see where things go from there, but they’re confident that everything will be okay from Dubai and on to India as well.
“I don’t think I’ll be hitting balls (during his rehabilitation) which is a bit disappointing, I’d love to be hitting balls.
“I’m not really sure what I’m going to be doing.
“Rest, recovery, some ice, those kind of things to try and get it right as quickly as possible.”