Mitchell Starc will fly home from India to have surgery on his ankle and will miss the fourth and final Test in Delhi.

Starc has been affected by bone spurs in his right ankle for some time and the problem was a key factor in him being rested for the Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka, and while he was able to continue through the rest of the Australian summer and the Indian tour, the Australians are hoping an early operation will ensure he is fully fit for the Ashes.

Starc was one of Australia's strongest performers in the loss in Mohali, where he scored 99 and 35, and collected two wickets during a spell of impressive swing bowling with the second new ball in India's second innings. However, with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy now in India's hands, the Australian team management decided that Starc's injury was best dealt with immediately to give him the best chance of being available for the tour of England.

"Mitch has been experiencing ankle pain related to bone spurs during the India Test series and whilst manageable, this represents an appropriate time for Mitch to have the surgery with a view to having him fully fit for the Ashes in late June," the team doctor Peter Brukner said. "Mitch will have surgery later this week and we'll assess his recovery as he returns to bowling."

Australia's coach Mickey Arthur said Starc could have continued playing but that could have been more of a risk than booking him in for the operation now.

"I think the dilemma with Mitchell Starc, as it has been throughout the whole summer, is he has these bone spurs," Arthur said. "They are going to snap at some stage - we just had to look for what we thought was the best possible window to get them done, or not get them done and just take the risk.

"We looked at it now and just thought 'this is a proper gap for us to be able to get it done, clean it out' so that he can come back with no gamble and no I guess injury cloud at all. It gives us a good window now to get it done properly. In terms of risk this was the best time. He'll be ready we're hoping by the Champions Trophy, if not he'll be 100% ready to go for the Ashes. We just thought it was the best time."

Starc's absence for the Delhi Test could bring Mitchell Johnson into contention to play his first Test of the tour. Johnson and James Pattinson will again be available for selection after being left out due to their failure to complete a team task in Mohali and while Pattinson is a certainty to play, the make-up of the rest of the attack is less clear. The pitch in Delhi is expected to offer significant turn.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here