Stuart Clark, who had a successful surgery on his right elbow last week, has said he will not rush himself back into action for Australia's tour to South Africa if it puts his career at risk.
"I would rate myself as an outside chance for the South African tour," Clark told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I'll be doing my best to make it, but I'm going to make sure I don't rush it and do more damage for the sake of making the trip."
The first Test against South Africa starts in Johannesburg on February 20 and Clark was unsure of how he would progress. He had bone spurs removed in an effort to eradicate an ongoing problem that emerged on the tour of India. He has begun a rehabilitation program, is attending regular physiotherapy sessions, and is working towards attaining a full range of movement.
"The surgeon reckons that if all goes really well, it'll be four to five weeks before I can start bowling gently again," he said. "Everything is on track in that regard, but it's hard not to feel a little edgy with the series going on."
If he is fit, it would be a dream scenario for Clark, who made a successful Test debut on the last tour of South Africa in 2005-06 where he was Player of the Series for 20 wickets at 15.85 in three games.
Clark said he had arrived in Perth hopeful of being able to play but it "all went awry from there". "The net session in Sydney on Friday wasn't great, but I was optimistic of getting through," he said. "I would tune in from time to time, then start thinking I could solve the problems of the world, then switch it off. You want to just pick the ball up and go out and solve the problem. But what good would I be? Useless."
Mickey Arthur, South Africa's coach, felt Clark's absence from the Australian attack had worked in his side's favour during a record-breaking chase on Sunday. ''The thing we've seen with Brett [Lee] is that since [Shane] Warne and [Glenn] McGrath have gone, he's done a huge amount more bowling,'' Arthur said. ''Clark is obviously the perfect foil for him. Without Clark doing a holding job perhaps his [Lee's] role gets a little bit confused. I think Brett is at his best when he is striking for you. How they balance the attack I'm not sure."