Former Australian cricket captain Steve Smith may not be fit to make his international return from a 12-month ban at the end of March, as he will undergo surgery on his right elbow next week.
Smith was famously at the centre of a ball-tampering scandal for the Australian Test team in South Africa last year.
He received a 12-month ban along with opening batsman David Warner, while Cameron Bancroft – the player who was filmed rubbing the ball with adhesive tape on which dirt and grit had accumulated, creating an abrasive surface – was sanctioned for nine months.
"Steve Smith will have surgery to repair a ligament in his right elbow," said a Cricket Australia spokesperson.
"He is expected to wear a brace for six weeks before starting rehabilitation."
Smith, 29, returned from the Bangladesh Premier League for scans on the injured joint before it was decided he would have surgery. He had scored 16 runs for his BPL team Comilla Victorians.
The right-handed batsman has been playing international tournaments around the world as his ban only applies in Australia, where he has been taking part in club cricket.
"Return-to-play timeframes will be clearer once the brace has been removed," added the CA spokesperson.
Both Smith and Warner are expected to return to the Australian international set-up once their bans are completed at the end of March.
The experienced players will be a welcome addition for the struggling Aussies (who recently lost a Test series at home to India for the first time) ahead of the 2019 Cricket World Cup and the Ashes series in England later this year.