Melbourne:The Australian team's embattled duo of pace spearhead Brett Lee and all-rounder Andrew Symonds will go under the knife this week to recover from their injuries in time for the side's return tour to South Africa in February.
Symonds needs an arthroscope on his knee and Lee is opting for one on his ankle in the hope of getting fit in time for the three-Test series in South Africa starting February.
Lee, who took only one wicket in two Tests against the Proteas, has a stress "hot spot" in his left ankle and will have a clean-up surgery.
The pacer was originally ordered to rest the foot for six weeks, but medical staff feel he would have to be operated upon to clear the debris that have built up over the course of 580.1 overs in 2008 - the most by any paceman in the world this year, save for fellow pacer Mitchell Johnson.
"It looks as though I will have to have surgery on Saturday. There is a lot of bone in the back of the ankle as well as the foot," Lee said.
"I am thinking if I have to be out for six to eight weeks with a foot injury, I might as well get the whole back of my ankle fixed."
Symonds played the two Tests against South Africa with an injured knee after a heavy fall during the Adelaide Test against New Zealand and, with the series already lost, it has been decided to get the knee attended to immediately.
All-rounder Shane Watson has also been ruled out of international cricket for six months after suffering a recurring stress fracture in his lower back.
Lee, Symonds and Watson will join Stuart Clark (elbow), Shaun Tait (hamstring), Ashley Noffke (back) and Phil Jaques (back) as the Cricket Australia-contracted players who will begin 2009 on the injured list, while the uncontracted Bryce McGain (shoulder) is also out of action.
Those injuries, with retirements and form concerns, have prompted Australia to field 23 Test players in 2008, six of them debutants.
Meanwhile, team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris and chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch have different takes on the spurt of injuries this year.
Kountouris said heavy schedule -- the Test side has played 38 of the past 82 days across two continents -- contributed to the massive injury toll, while Hilditch denied this was the case.
"Obviously we've played seven or eight Tests now in a short period of time and it's taken its toll on the players," Kountouris said.
"I would probably double my salary if I knew the answer to (the workload) question. It's always easy in hindsight. Do you leave Brett Lee out of a Test match? Do you leave Mitchell Johnson out of the next Test match? Typically we've given them rest periods during one-day games. We've just gone through a period where we've played a whole bunch of Test matches and that's been the difference with other situations." Hilditch had a different take.
"It's not a workload issue at all. These are all quite unique things. Brett is actually coming off quite a lay-off, so I don't think it's a workload issue. Andrew has played a fair bit of cricket but he has also had a bit of a lay-off, so I don't think they're issues to do with how much cricket we have played," he was quoted as saying by 'Sydney Morning Herald'.