Ricky Ponting was "devastated" to be ruled out of the fifth and final Ashes test against England in Sydney next week due to complications with his broken finger, the Australian captain said on Thursday.
Ponting had undertaken an x-ray after Australia's defeat in the fourth test in Melbourne with results indicating that his fracture had moved over the course of the match and would need immediate treatment, the team said earlier in a statement.
"I'm devastated to tell you the truth, it was the news I was dreading," Ponting told reporters at Sydney airport. "During the game I didn't think I'd done too much more to it."
Ponting broke the little finger on his left hand attempting a catch during the third test in Perth, but played under some discomfort in the next match in Melbourne, which England won to retain the Ashes and take a 2-1 lead into the final match.
Vice captain Michael Clarke is expected to lead the side in Sydney with uncapped Usman Khawaja, a Pakistan-born opening batsman who plays for New South Wales, likely to take Ponting's spot at number three.
Team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said Ponting would face surgery or "aggressive splinting and immobilisation" and a decision on what course to take would be made within 24 hours after consultation with a specialist.
He would not be expected to be able to start training until the later part of the Australian summer, but would be expected to be fully fit for the World Cup in February, Kountouris said.
Ponting's omission will be guaranteed to fuel speculation about the future of his captaincy, with former cricketers and pundits calling for the 36-year-old to step down in the wake of his third failed Ashes series.
Ponting, who also conceded the urn on tours in 2005 and last year, said retirement was the last thing on his mind.
"I'm not thinking about it at all," he said.
The Tasmanian, the second-most prolific run-scorer in test history, has been in woeful form with the bat in the series, averaging just 16 and scoring only a single half-century on the final afternoon of the drawn first test in Brisbane.