MacGill heads for hand surgery

Stuart MacGill will have surgery on his right hand on Thursday and is likely to miss at least the first two Tests of the series against India. He had originally been tipped to have an operation - on his problem right knee - but after two weeks of heavy scrutiny after his poor bowling in the Hobart Test a decision on his treatment has been made.

"MacGill will undergo surgery in Sydney on Thursday for carpal tunnel syndrome in the right hand, a common problem that causes hand numbness," Trefor James, the team doctor who examined MacGill in Melbourne, said. "The surgery is expected to keep Stuart out for four to six weeks."

Australia's series with India begins on Boxing Day and the selectors will now have to decide between the spin of Brad Hogg or using four fast men on the drop-in pitch. "My gut feeling is that we have to pick our four best bowlers," the Australia coach Tim Nielsen said in the Herald Sun. "It doesn't matter if they are spinners or quicks."

MacGill's problems severely affect the national team as he was meant to operate as the link man between the Shane Warne era and the next generation of spinners. MacGill is 36 and he faces a huge battle to prove himself after admitting he was unfit leading into the Sri Lanka series. He could be ready to return late in the four-Test contest with India, but there is also the option of waiting for the tour of Pakistan in March.

"Although Stuart has had mild symptoms for several months, it only began to affect his bowling during the second Test against Sri Lanka in Hobart last month," James said. "The problem has been the subject of a thorough investigation and assessment since the Test."

MacGill has also been hampered by a serious knee condition but James ruled out any further surgery. He struggled in the series against Sri Lanka, managing to pick up five wickets at an average of 65.