South Africa's test captain Graeme Smith has left English county Surrey and returned to South Africa to have surgery on a chronic ankle problem that has put his participation in next month's ICC Champions Trophy in doubt.
Smith has had long-term difficulties with his left ankle that have required surgery in the past and the injury flared up again in the home one-day international series against Pakistan in March.
He started the County Championship season as planned, but Surrey said on their website on Wednesday that the 31-year-old would require more surgery to fix the problem.
Although no time-frame has been put on his recovery, with South Africa's opening game of the Champions Trophy against India on June 6, he is facing a race against time to be fit.
"To have to head home now, so early in my time at Surrey is very frustrating but I leave the team in a good place and hope to be back with them as soon as possible," Smith said on Wednesday.
Surrey team director Chris Adams added: "Graeme has made an impressive start as a leader and the squad have really responded to his leadership.
"It's clearly disappointing for all, especially Graeme, but we wish him a speedy recovery."
Smith has had five innings in the County Championship this season, scoring a modest 120 runs at an average of 30 with just one score over 50.