Australian Test skipper Tim Paine is "extremely confident" of being fit and ready for the Ashes, starting December 8 at the Gabba, despite undergoing invasive neck surgery this week.
A bulging disc had been causing him pain in his neck and left arm. The 36-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman revealed that surgeons had to cut a hole in his throat to fix the issue. He has been advised to rest for a couple of weeks before starting his rehabilitation.
"I ended up having disc replacements on C-6 and C-7, high up in the neck. Basically, they cut a big hole in my throat, move my voice box over to the side and go in that way," he told his SEN radio show on Friday (September 17), providing graphic details of the procedure he underwent in Hobart.
"It's less invasive than going through the back way, obviously with your spine it's the safer way of doing it. So they take them (damaged discs) out, put the new discs in and stitch it back up. It actually feels really, really good except for the front where I've got the cut.
"I feel like my range is already better and I've just got to make sure the front, where the cut is, heals and I give the disc time to 'take' to the rest of my spine over the next month or so, and then get moving. It's a pretty slow process, if I'm totally honest.
"I'll be (restricted to) walking for the next couple of weeks, and doing a lot of little neck physio-type movements just to try and get the smaller muscles in my neck working again. I'll be dealing with physio at the hospital for the next six weeks or so before I'm handed back over to Cricket Tasmania and Cricket Australia to start my cricket rehab.
"I'll hopefully get a Shield game in for Tassie before then and hopefully be on the winning end of a third winning Ashes would be something really special."
Paine is no stranger to surgeries. He has had seven surgeries on his finger, which had initially put his career in jeopardy. But he made an unexpected return to the Test side in 2017 and within a year, he was bestowed with the opportunity to lead his country.
Before getting the surgery done, Paine also spoke with former professional footballers Mat Rogers (rugby and rugby league) and Nathan Jones (AFL) who had undergone the same procedure. Paine said this surgery will help him in the long run.
"I had the bulging disc pressing in on the nerve canal in the spine, so I was having a few issues down the left side of my body. We were getting to the touch-and-go stage where I either don't get it done and take the risk that I'll be right through the Ashes, or get it fixed now. So the decision came down to a number of things really.
"With it pushing hard on the nerves, you can damage the nerves so I didn't want to have any long-term issues with my left arm in particular. I was losing a lot of strength in my left arm, and getting a lot of nerve pain down the back of my arm and I didn't want that to become anything permanent and if I left it too long, I think there's a chance that it could.
"The second one was that I want to be playing in the Ashes and playing well, so I didn't want it to sort of come good in a month and then be keep continually flaring up during the Ashes. If it came back as bad as it has been at times, there's no way I would have been able to play if it was the morning of a Test match so I didn't want to take that risk. And then just the long-term health.
"I've got a young family, so to be able to pick up my kids and do all those sort of things I thought get in, get it fixed and get myself right for the Ashes. I also want to keep playing cricket for Tasmania, even after my international career, so to have it fixed and out of the way was the correct decision for me long-term."
There have also been reports regarding some of the England players pulling out of the Ashes because of the hard quarantine and bio-security conditions in Australia. However, Paine said that the conditions will be nowhere near as bad as what England are fearing.
"The main stuff with the English guys is around the protocols with quarantine but we're not asking them to do anything that we won't be doing. I think if we can get them out here they'll realise the conditions during Australia's' COVID hubs are pretty good and nothing to worry about."