Sydney: Australia's backup wicketkeeper and top order batsman Tim Paine has been ruled out of the entire four-test series against India after being forced to undergo surgery on an injured finger.
All rounder Shane Watson has meanwhile indicated that he should be able to bat against the Indians in the first test starting on December 26 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground but was unlikely to be fit to bowl because of a hamstring injury.
Australia's test team, particularly the batting line-up, has been the subject of much debate ahead of the India series after they crashed to a first test defeat to New Zealand on home soil in 26 years on Monday.
Paine has long been the heir apparent to Brad Haddin in the test side but been unable to put any pressure on his 34-year-old rival this season after injuring his right index finger in August.
"It is clear that the fracture has not healed as expected and the best course of action is for Tim to undergo further surgery," team doctor Trefor James said in a Cricket Australia news release on Wednesday.
"This will be performed today and it is expected that Tim will be unavailable for a further three to four months."
Watson, Australia's player of the year for the last two years, missed the New Zealand tests after sustaining the injury last month in South Africa, where he proved his increasing importance as a bowler with five wickets in the first test.
"It's unfortunate I won't be able to get any game time leading up to Boxing Day apart from the nets," Watson told Fox Sports News.
"But my leg should be right. At the moment I'm just trying to get up to running speed and being able to bat over the next couple of weeks. But it would most probably be primarily as a batsman."
Watson has opened the batting for Australia for the last three seasons and would be the natural replacement for Phil Hughes if, as expected, the 23-year-old is dropped after a miserable series against the Black Caps.
Warne confident of return despite burnt fingers
The 30-year-old Watson has been lobbying for a move down the order after being asked to bowl more frequently since Michael Clarke took over as skipper -- a debate new coach Mickey Arthur believes needs to be concluded sooner rather than later.
"We have to come to a point where we make a decision where Shane is going to bat in the batting order and how many overs we expect of him so there is no more debate about the issue," he told reporters in Tasmania.
"We need to give him a clear role definition before the Boxing Day test."
Experienced batsmen Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey also had a poor series against New Zealand but look likely to retain their places because of the lack of other options.
Top order batsman Shaun Marsh was ruled "unlikely" on Tuesday to be fit for the Boxing Day test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) because of a back injury.
India, who have never won a test series in Australia, begin their first tour match in Canberra on Thursday.