Steve Waugh yesterday stopped short of ruling himself out of the remainder of the Ashes series, but admitted his chances of returning are remote. Australia's respected captain will definitely not play in the fourth Test at Headingley next week but has refused to rule himself out of making the final match at The Oval.
He is nursing a double tear of his calf muscle, sustained while helping his team win the Ashes for the seventh successive time by ensuring an unbeatable 3-0 lead at Trent Bridge on Saturday.
Waugh has been told by Australia's physiotherapist Errol Alcott that he needs seven days of treatment now before he can assess the likely recovery time from his injury.
Asked whether his tour is over, Waugh said: "Most probably it is. You never give up all hope, but most likely it is." He relived the moment he felt the searing pain in his leg as he set off for a single after the first ball he faced during Australia's successful chase of 158 to win.
"It felt like someone throwing a ball into my calf muscle from short range," he said.
"It was a bit of a shock first up. It was a tense feeling, very sharp and awkward.
"Shortly afterwards I realised there were going to be serious problems and my tour was basically over." Alcott has told Waugh his injury is actually a double tear, one on the lower inside of the calf and the other higher up on the outside. It is a problem the Australian physio says normally takes four to six weeks to heal.
Waugh confirmed: "I am just going to have seven to 10 days of treatment and see how it goes.
"Ten days of treatment is the best remedy, and after that if I feel like I am getting in the road of the new captain or vice-captain then I will go home." In the meantime, Australia must decide who is to take over the Australian captaincy in Waugh's absence.
The obvious candidate is the wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, who is Waugh's vice-captain. Nothing has yet been decided, though, and the Australian Cricket Board spokesman Brian Murgatroyd said: "There will be a decision sooner rather than later. That needs to be considered by the board of selectors before an announcement is made."
It is clear, though, that Gilchrist will captain Australia at Headingley as long as he wants to. He is the third man in a selection committee which also includes Waugh himself and former Test leg-spinner Trevor Hohns.
The Australian opening batsmen Michael Slater declared his side's intentions of beating England by a 5-0 whitewash, saying: "In the past we've been guilty of winning a series and then pulling back a bit.
"So we are looking to win 5-0 now. You don't to look too far ahead, the Headingley Test is the next important one for us, but certainly our sights are set on winning 5-0."
The England coach Duncan Fletcher admitted that a whitewash would be a severe setback. "[Before the series] It would have been important that we won the Ashes. If there is a whitewash, it will set us back quite a bit, I'd have to honest about that, after the good work we have done.
"We've got to play a higher standard of cricket. Australia have got an experienced Test side and have come through those areas before. This side has shown it's got pride before – they want to come back and play with a lot of a pride and try and get a victory or two out of the next two Tests," Fletcher said.
David Graveney intends to remain as chairman of the England selectors and feels England are "heading in the right direction". Yesterday he rang every one of the squad to say "well done".
He remains defiant when asked if he has the stomach for the fight to come. "Certainly. I know the status of my job. If we had won yesterday you wouldn't have been talking to me." Asked if he had any thoughts of resignation, Graveney replied: "No, no."Reuse content