Tim Paine has been ruled out of Australia's tour of South Africa next month due to a finger injury, which is likely to open the door for Matthew Wade to make his international debut. Paine will have surgery later this week following a slower than expected recovery after he hurt his right index finger while batting at a Tasmania training session a month ago.
The decision for Paine to have an operation means that Australia will need to find a new wicketkeeper for the two Twenty20s against South Africa on October 13 and 16 in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Brad Haddin last week announced his retirement from Twenty20 internationals, which is likely to make Wade the favourite for a national call-up.
Wade, 23, has played for Australia A over the past 18 months and was productive for Victoria last summer, when he finished second behind Brad Hodge on the Ryobi Cup run tally and also score 553 Sheffield Shield runs. It would be a major surprise if Wade was not chosen, with Chris Hartley having hardly been used in T20 by Queensland over the past two seasons, and Western Australia's Luke Ronchi having slipped down the pecking order.
And while the T20s in South Africa are the immediate opportunity, there could be further chances to provide backup for Haddin in one-day or Test cricket, depending on how long Paine is sidelined. Australia's physiotherapist, Alex Kountouris, said Paine was still experiencing significant discomfort a month after sustaining the injury.
"Tim Paine injured his right index finger batting at training with his Tasmanian state team four weeks ago," Kountouris said. "He sustained a fracture in a similar part of the same finger late last year and required surgery. Tim has been resting the injury in recent weeks but is still experiencing considerable pain.
"His surgeon has advised that the fracture is healing slower than expected and may not heal without surgical intervention. As such, Tim will be undergoing surgery later this week. He is likely to need an extended recovery period following surgery and will not be available for selection for the T20 and ODI tour of South Africa."
Paine is not the only one of Australia's contracted players set for surgery, with the allrounder John Hastings likely to have an operation on his right shoulder. Hastings suffered the injury while training with Victoria and he too will be out of action for the T20 and one-day series in South Africa.
"John Hastings injured his right shoulder during a training session with Cricket Victoria after returning from Australian duties in Sri Lanka," Kountouris said. "He has had ongoing shoulder pain since this incident and has been unable to return to training. He has consulted a surgeon who has recommended surgery.
"It is possible that he will have surgery sometime in the next week after further assessment from the surgeon. His return to cricket will be dependent on the management approach pursued but he will not be available for selection for the T20 and ODI tour of South Africa."