LONDON (Reuters) – Australia will welcome back Steve Smith and David Warner with “open arms” when their international bans expire and their inclusion will boost the team’s chances of winning this year’s World Cup, former leg-spinner Shane Warne has said.
Smith and Warner were suspended for 12 months for their roles in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year and can return to top-level cricket at the end of the month.
While the bans end in time for the pair to play the final two one-day internationals of the five-match series against Pakistan, neither was included in the squad as they are both recovering from recent elbow surgery.
“I think Smith and Warner will be accepted with open arms. They have done their time. They are not bad people, they just made a bad mistake,” Warne, who claimed 708 wickets for Australia in 145 tests, told Sky Sports.
“When you have got that sort of class as a cricketer, they will go straight back into the World Cup squad.”
World champions Australia picked up a 3-2 ODI series win in India, gathering momentum in time for the May 30-July 14 World Cup in England and Wales.
“The way Australia are playing at the moment, I wouldn’t write them off and I think they can win the World Cup,” Warne added.
“They just beat India in the T20 series and to chase 360 in India without Smith and Warner is an ominous sign for the rest of the World Cup competition.”
The pair met with their Australia team mates in the United Arab Emirates to smooth the ground for their return to international cricket when their bans expire at the end of the month.
While Australia have struggled without their two best batsmen, questions have been raised over how easily they would re-integrate into the squad for the one-day World Cup and Ashes tour of England.
Coach Justin Langer appeared to have no such qualms after meeting with the pair ahead of the one-day series against Pakistan that starts on Friday in Sharjah.
“They have been received really well,” Langer said. “They have gone through a really tough time, a 12-month suspension … it’s great to have them back in the team.
“They’re excited and … as a coach when you have got two guys with as many runs and experience as they’ve got coming back into a team that’s playing well, that’s very exciting.”
While the bans end in time for the pair to play the final two matches of the Pakistan series, neither was included in the squad as they are both recovering from recent elbow surgery.
Langer said the duo had been briefed on the new team ethos that was put into place after independent reviews identified a “win-without-counting-the-cost” mentality in Australian cricket.
“We just had a look at how we are going with those values and how we can use our values and behaviours to keep moving the team forward on and off the field,” Langer added.
Both players said they felt comfortable being back around the team environment.
“It’s almost like we never left,” Smith said. “It has been great to be back around the group. They have been really welcoming.”
Smith added that he was making a good recovery from his elbow surgery and should be available for the Indian Premier League Twenty20 competition, which starts next week.
“I’m really excited about playing again,” said Smith, who did not confirm when he would be able to return for the Rajasthan Royals. “The elbow has been tracking really well.
“I’ve been batting for two weeks and been able to play all the shots. I’ve got my power back and I’m just excited to be back.”
Awards Smith won include Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy in 2015; ICC Test Player of the Year in 2015, 2017; the Allan Border Medal for the best player in Australian Cricket in 2015, 2018; Australian Test Player of the Year: 2015, 2018 and Australian One Day International Player of the Year: 2015.