Ricky Ponting, Australia's captain, has been ruled out of the first Test against India at Bangalore, which starts on October 6, with a fractured left thumb. The injury occurred while Ponting was fielding at slip during Australia's loss to England in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy at Edgbaston yesterday, with diagnostic scans revealing a break. Ponting will return to Australia for medical consultation, with his prospects for the rest of the series yet to be determined.

"Ricky was in considerable pain overnight and got very little sleep, so we had the injury seen to as quickly as possible today," explained Errol Alcott, the Australian physiotherapist. "The scans have detected a fracture in his left thumb, and we feel that it is in his best interests to get home now and receive the best possible medical advice. We can't make any bold predictions about a return date for Ricky until he has seen a hand specialist back in Australia."

Ponting, who averages almost 56 with the bat against India in Tests, expressed his sadness at missing the first Test, but backed his side to fill in admirably without him. "I'm obviously very disappointed but have great faith in all of my team-mates to do the job in my absence," he said. "I'll do everything I can to get back as quickly as possible, but to achieve that I will have to be guided by the experts. I desperately want to be on that plane to India, and if everything goes according to plan, I'll still be able to play some part in the series, sooner I hope, rather than later.

"In the meantime, the boys know exactly what needs to be done because we have put a great deal of work into preparing for this tour. This series means so much to us all. It could be one of the biggest Test series ever played, so to be missing the start of it is really disappointing."

Ponting's replacement in the 16-man squad is yet to be named, and the position of captain will also be reviewed in his absence.