Warner, Smith, rejoin Australian squad ahead of World Cup
Former Australian captain and vice-captain Steve Smith and David Warner have rejoined the Australian squad for the team's pre-World Cup training camp. Smith and Warner, of course, only recently concluded their 12-month suspensions for their role in the ball-tampering controversy which embroiled the Australian team during their tour of South Africa in March of last year.
It is the second time the two have been involved with the side since their suspensions began – they also briefly spent some time with the Australian ODI side in the UAE during its series against Pakistan, after which they both mentioned the ease with which they were able to reassimilate.
Since then, they have both been plying their trades in the IPL, with Warner in particular reminding selectors and fans alike why any thought of not playing him in the World Cup should be snuffed out immediately – he has been comfortably the best batsman in the league, scoring 692 runs at an average of 69.2 and a huge strike rate of 143.86.
And it seems the two have once again found the transition back into the squad relatively smooth, at least according to Mitch Starc, who said that it was 'all rosy'. Along with fellow fast bowler Josh Hazlewood as well as Cricket Australia leadership consultant Tim Ford and high performance manager Belinda Clark, Starc had a meeting with Smith and Warner upon their return, during which '95% was not about Dave and Steve and the group. It was more about where the team was going. There wasn't anything spoken about those two in particular, it was more about the team and what we are focused on moving forward.'
These reports bode well for Australia, who have gone from a struggling team and hefty outsiders to compete at the World Cup to one of the favourites in just a matter of months. Throughout the Australian summer, the team was struggling, and interviews by both Steve Smith and co-conspirator Cameron Bancroft, as well as a fairly bizarre advertisement for a phone company by Smith which centred around his development as a person following the suspension, drew doubts about the ability for them to fit back into the side without disrupting its culture or ruffling any feathers.
Since then, however, the team has turned its form around and those doubts have quickly been snuffed out by the strong performances of Smith and in particular Warner at the IPL. Now, suddenly, they have a deep and dangerous batting lineup to go with their strong bowling attack, and a wealth of leadership experience.
Opener Aaron Finch will be the Australian captain throughout the World Cup, but he himself alluded to the benefits of having them around, saying 'I'll be using them as much as I can tactically because they've both captained a lot of cricket and are very good captains on the field.' For the record, Smith is banned from leadership positions for another 12 months while Warner is banned for life.
The re-entry of Warner and Smith into the squad just a month out from the World Cup always had the potential to cause problems, and a few months ago certainly seemed like it might do just that. However, the waters have calmed significantly in Australian cricket in recent weeks, and, for the time being at least, things certainly do seem all rosy for the World Cup squad.