Sydney - Paceman Mitchell Johnson is expected to be out of cricket for up to five months if he has to have foot surgery later this week, Cricket Australia said on Wednesday.
In a further blow to Australia's injury-depleted fast bowling stocks, Johnson is being assessed as to whether he will require an operation on his big left toe, injured during this month's tour to South Africa.
If needed, the erratic left-armer, 30, who has taken 190 wickets in 47 Tests, will undergo surgery within the next 24 hours, CA said.
"The specialist advice is that he will require surgery to repair damaged soft tissue structures around his left big toe," CA said in a statement.
"He will travel to Melbourne today to be further assessed by a surgical team and CA doctor Trefor James.
"If they confirm that surgery is required he will be operated on in the next 24 hours."
Australian team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said if Johnson has surgery it is expected to keep him out of cricket for up to five months.
Australian captain Michael Clarke said while it would be disappointing to be without Johnson for the entire Australian summer against New Zealand and India, it offered him to chance to come back stronger.
"I think it could have a good impact on him. It will give him more time away from the game to clear his head and get himself fit and strong," Clarke said.
"Injuries I've seen in the past with a few of our players with that amount of time off have helped them come back bigger and better.
"I don't see it as that big a deal with Mitch," he said.
"It's disappointing on behalf of the team that he's not going to be around and available for selection, but in regards to his own individual career I see no reason why he can't get back to his best if not better after the operation."
Johnson, along with injured pair, Ryan Harris, youngster Pat Cummins and bowling allrounder Shane Watson, have been ruled out of Thursday's first Test against New Zealand with injuries.