Ben Hilfenhaus is still unsure when he will be able to return from his lingering knee injury but is determined not to come back too soon. Hilfenhaus, the leading wicket-taker in the Ashes, bowed out after his Man-of-the-Match performance against West Indies in Brisbane in what was supposed to be a minor problem, but he has been out of action for the past six weeks.
Australia's pace stocks are also missing Brett Lee and Stuart Clark, but Hilfenhaus' absence has hurt the Test team, which has been challenged by West Indies and Pakistan this summer. Hilfenhaus' tendonitis in his knee worsened during the opening game in Brisbane and a flare up in his grade return before Christmas meant a lengthy rehabilitation.
"It's getting there, getting there slowly," Hilfenhaus told the Australian. "We're probably looking at having a couple more weeks off before I start running again."
This time Hilfenhaus will wait until he is fully ready to come back and is hoping to avoid the discomfort he suffered in Brisbane. "I definitely kept trying to bowl as much as I could and whether it's made it worse we'll never know," he said. "It may have contributed to it. But by the end of the game it was screaming out for a rest." The limited-overs tour of New Zealand, which begins in February, appears his earliest chance for another international engagement.
While Hilfenhaus is on the outer, Shaun Tait, who still owns a Cricket Australia contract, is firing for South Australia in the domestic Twenty20 competition. And after taking 3 for 12 in the win over Victoria, he's happy to stay in the limited-overs arena.
When asked if he wanted to return to the longer form of the game, Tait said: "No, not at all." Tait, who has played three Tests, has cut back his first-class duties to help his fragile body, and his bowling has ensured South Australia have a perfect record in three Twenty20 matches as they push to qualify for the Champions League.
"This is the best my body has felt for two years and I think it's been a solid decision [to step away]," he said in the Advertiser. "Leading into the Big Bash I just wanted to stay fresh for this competition and I suppose it has paid off."