Wellington, Dec 21: New Zealand's leading fast bowler Tim Southee has been ruled out of its two test series in South Africa after suffering a serious thumb injury which requires surgery.
Southee injured his left thumb when diving in the field during a domestic first class match on Thursday.
New Zealand team physiotherapist Paul Close said the ligament in Southee's thumb had "fully ruptured and retracted" and he would be out of action for up to eight weeks.
At 24 and after only 21 tests, Southee is one of the most experienced members of New Zealand's young pace attack.
He was expected to be appointed vice captain under new captain Brendon McCullum.
New Zealand plays South Africa in tests at Cape Town from Jan. 2 and Port Elizabeth from Jan. 11.