Perth Scorchers opener Michael Klinger is set to miss an indefinite period of the Big Bash League after his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Cindy Klinger received the shock diagnosis this week following a scan to investigate some ongoing back pain.
Klinger, who is the BBL's all-time leading run-scorer and a key member of the Scorchers side, will not play until further notice in order to support his wife and three children.
"Last week, my wife Cindy had a routine scan on her back, which had been causing her pain and no physiotherapy or anti-inflammatory tablets seemed to help," Klinger told the West Australian newspaper. "The result of that scan completely shocked and devastated us. Doctors identified three spots on her vertebrae that required further investigation -- within hours we were told she had cancer.
"Playing cricket, right at this moment, is secondary. It still may happen, because Cindy wants me to play and says it will be a good distraction for her and the kids to see me do so, either on TV or at The Furnace. But, by my choice, if playing clashes with any appointments or treatments, or if Cindy or the kids need me, I will be by their side."
Klinger, 37, made 334 runs in last year's tournament including an unbeaten 71 in the final to help guide the Scorchers to their third title. His outstanding tournament saw him picked for his long-awaited T20 international debut against Sri Lanka.
While the Scorchers' title defence is of relatively little importance compared to the battle the Klinger and his family faces, coach Justin Langer does have a tricky task in trying to replace his talisman at the top of the order.
The Scorchers were already thin in the batting stocks for the first part of the tournament due to the absence of Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh and Cameron Bancroft who are on Test duty. Shaun Marsh has been Klinger's preferred opening partner when available.
Sam Whiteman filled the role late in the tournament last year to great effect. But Whiteman is unavailable for the entire tournament due to a long-term finger injury.
Klinger looked set to open with England international David Willey, who has made two centuries opening for Northants and Yorkshire in the T20 Blast in England. Willey made 37 in quick time in the Scorchers' practice match against the England Lions at the new Perth Stadium last week. He will likely open in the Scorchers' season opener against the Sydney Sixers on Saturday night at the SCG.
The options to partner him include wicketkeeper Josh Inglis and emerging Western Australian batsman Josh Philippe. Inglis is a versatile right-hander who has opened in List A matches for the Cricket Australia XI. He averages 31 in List A cricket at a strike-rate of 110 with three half-centuries. Hilton Cartwright could also potentially fill the role.
Philippe has bolted to prominence this season after clubbing 88 off 92 balls for a Western Australian XI against England's attack in a two-day tour game in November.