Former Australia captain Steve Smith’s participation in the Ashes could be in doubt as he needs elbow surgery.
Smith’s 12-month ban following the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal is set to end on March 28.
The 29-year-old could have found himself back in contention for the baggy green again ahead of the World Cup and the Ashes, which are both to be staged in England.
However, following the ligament problem in his right elbow which forced him to stop playing for the Comilla Victorians in the Bangladesh Premier League, it remains to be seen how much recovery time the 29-year-old will now face.
Cricket Australia revealed Smith is set to undergo surgery on January 15, and is expected to be in a brace for around six weeks, followed by a period of rehabilitation.
“Return to play timeframes will be clearer once the brace has been removed,” a spokesperson for Cricket Australia said.
Smith’s ban applies to international and domestic cricket, but he has featured in T20 leagues in Canada and the Caribbean.
The former Australia captain had spoken of the “dark days” which followed the fall-out from the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
Cameron Bancroft’s attempt to manipulate the ball with what was later revealed to be sandpaper was a plan orchestrated, according to a Cricket Australia investigation, by vice-captain David Warner.
Smith was found to have known about the plan midway through the third Test against the Proteas in Cape Town in March but failed to prevent it and, as such, all three players received lengthy suspensions.
The former captain, who is unable to hold a leadership position until 2020, had talked about the possibility of a return to international action for Australia in England, adding he would be ready to face the “incredibly hostile” home crowd if he were back in the fold.
The 2019 World Cup opens with hosts England against South Africa at The Oval on May 30. Australia are scheduled to play their first group match against Afghanistan in Bristol on June 1.