Johannesburg: A recurring ankle injury could rule star South Africa batsman Graeme Smith out of June's Champions Trophy, a national squad official admitted.

He confirmed that Smith is expected to return home this week from English county cricket duties at Surrey and an operation may sideline him for several months.

Losing Smith for the one-day international championship in England and Wales would be a massive blow for perennial tournament 'chokers' South Africa after all-rounder Jacques Kallis declared himself unavailable for selection.

A left ankle problem forced Smith to miss the last ODI against Pakistan at Willowmoore Park near Johannesburg in March.

The injury is also a blow to Surrey with Smith scoring 48 against Middlesex in the county championship and 74 against Yorkshire in a 40-over competition after a slow start which included a 67 and three single-figure exits.

Johannesburg-born Smith, 32, has hit 6,917 runs in 190 ODI appearances for the Proteas at an average of 39.07 and his highest score of 141 was against England in the Champions Trophy at SuperSport Park in Centurion four years ago.


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