Johnson is set to be sidelined for five months after a specialist indicated he needed an operation to repair damage from a piece of metal embedded near his big toe.

Cricket Australia doctor Trefor James and a surgical team were due to make further assessments on Wednesday but it’s expected he will go under the knife while his Australian teammates are in action in the first Test against New Zealand at the Gabba.

Captain Clarke said it was disappointing news to lose his most experienced paceman for the Test series against New Zealand, India and probably the West Indies but felt it would help him overcome his mental demons.

Johnson has 190 wickets in 47 Tests at 31 but has battled for form and consistency since being the ICC’s international cricketer of the year in 2009.

He’s captured just 13 wickets at 56 this year and was on the verge of being dropped before succumbing to the injury which flared during his match-winning knock of 40 not out in Johannesburg last week.

“I don’t see it as that big a deal with Mitch,” Clarke said. “I think it could have a good impact, to be honest. It will give him more time away from the game to clear his head and get himself fit and strong.

“Injuries I’ve seen in the past with a few of our players, that time off has helped them come back bigger and better. I think Warney is a great example.”

Leg-spinner Warne underwent major surgery on his lingering shoulder problem in 1998 but, by the 1999 World Cup, he’d returned to his best to lead Australia to the tournament crown.

Johnson’s enforced absence magnifies the opportunity for uncapped fast bowlers, James Pattinson, Ben Cutting and Mitchell Starc, with two of the young trio set to make their Test debuts at the Gabba on Thursday.

With teenage sensation Patrick Cummins to return from a heel injury and Ryan Harris (hip) also sidelined, an impressive debut could put a deposit on a regular place in the attack.

“They’ve got the chance to come in and be a part of this great team and hopefully build a career,” Clarke said. “For these kids, it’s about making the most of your chance.”