Australian pacer Stuart Clark faces an uncertain sporting future and could miss the remainder of the summer if, as expected, he has surgery to remove bone spurs from his bowling elbow.
Clark has carried the injury for months, but succumbed to renewed pain days before the Perth Test against world No. 2 South Africa, in which his needling bounce was expected to cause problems in helpful conditions.
A dejected Clark conceded that surgery, which is the most likely course of action, would probably rule him out for the season.
While he said he is determined to make a successful comeback, he also said this cannot be taken for granted, given his age - 33 - and the delicate nature of the condition for a fast bowler.
"It's no secret that I have had a bad elbow for a while. It's flared up. It's not acceptable to play. I think it's a throwing issue that has just got worse over time. It's something that hasn't affected me until recently, until, I suppose, the Indian series," he said.
"I've got to go back to Sydney or Melbourne and get the [surgery] process rolling. I hope there's another scenario but I don't really know. I thought it was getting bet," he added.
Victorian pace bowler Peter Siddle has been summoned to Perth as a replacement.
Australian team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris was confident, though not certain, Clark would return to top-flight cricket if surgery was required.
"With anyone who has surgery there is always a risk that things can go wrong or take longer than expected," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Kountouris, as saying.
"It's really up in the air. To be honest, until they go in and see how much damage there is and what's going on, it's pretty hard to say what the prognosis is. I would expect that he would come back and play and be right to go. Others have had similar surgery in the past and done well, so there's no reason for him to be any different," he added.
An operation would likely keep Clark from bowling for six weeks, but a complete recovery could take another month.
Only four Australian pace bowlers have bowled past the age of 35 - Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller, Jeff Thomson and Glenn McGrath.
Clark, who is 10 victims away from 100 Test wickets and has a wonderful record against the Proteas, was understandably distraught to miss the heavyweight clash.
"Playing South Africa in this Test match and the two best Test matches of the year in Sydney and Melbourne against the second-best team, and we're the number one team, what can you say?"