ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2019
Expect the worst: Ponting on Smith, Warner scrutiny
Former skipper warns returning duo will 'cop it everywhere they go' during World Cup
12 March 2019, 08:02 PM AEST
Steve Smith and David Warner must prepare for a barrage of fan hostility and intense media scrutiny in the United Kingdom this year, says Ricky Ponting, who has warned their international returns could "derail" Australia's World Cup campaign if the team isn't adequately prepared.
The gradual easing of Smith and Warner back into the national fold following their 12-month bans will begin in the UAE later this month ahead of their expected recall for Australia's 50-over world title defence, beginning on June 1 in Bristol.
Ponting, a three-time World Cup winner and the most successful captain in the tournament's history, will play an integral role in smoothing the duo's likely returns when he joins Australia's coaching staff for the six-and-a-half week campaign.
While the 44-year-old doesn't anticipate any internal hostility towards the side's former captain and vice-captain, he stressed both the pair and the rest of the ODI squad need to prepare for unprecedented antagonism externally.
"I don't think it is much of a challenge internally around the players," Ponting told cricket.com.au. "You'd like to think that those guys are having conversations now, so they're not leaving it to the last minute and just be exposed to this thing that could be derailing to a team.
"I'm sure this would have been talked about at a higher level for a long time - how do we integrate them back in? How do they fit in? How is it all going to be seamless?
"But the hardest part for those guys is going to be the public perception of us, especially in England.
"They're coming back into a World Cup in the UK - they shouldn’t be expecting too many pats on the back over there.
"They're going to cop it everywhere they go. They've got to know that, they've got to accept that and understand that.
"The team needs to as well, because that could also be something that could be unsettling for a team."
The Aussies got a brief taste of the stick they might cop at the World Cup during their six-game limited-overs tour of the UK last year, with some fans at The Oval bringing '4' and '6' cards printed on yellow sandpaper into the ground, a crude reference to the foiled Cape Town ball-tampering plot.
Smith and Warner weren't named to play in Australia's final World Cup tune-up in the UAE, an upcoming five-match series against Pakistan, despite their bans elapsing before the fourth ODI in Dubai.
But it was confirmed this week that the pair will link up with the squad in the Middle East, ahead of their Indian Premier League stints, in which they'll turn out for Rajasthan Royals (Smith) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (Warner).
Ponting, who lost just two of the 29 World Cup games in which he was captain, forecast that both may be taken aback by the level of animosity that accompanies their comebacks.
And stressed that runs will be their best defence against it.
"I think they are well equipped (to handle the scrutiny), but I think it could be a shock for them by the same token when they come back," Ponting said.
"They have to expect the absolute worst and then anything better than that is going to be a bonus for them. That would be the way I would approach it if I was them.
"But at the same time, the way they'll integrate themselves back in quickly and have some of the public helping them out, is for them to be scoring runs. If they’re scoring runs and the Australian cricket team is winning, it’ll be a whole lot easier.
"If it’s the other way around and they're not scoring runs and the Australian team is losing, then it’s going to be hard.
"That's where there's a great challenge there for all of us - not just for them, but for all of us coaches and everyone in that squad of 15 – there's going to be some great challenges but ones that I'm looking forward to."
From a purely on-field perspective, the returns of Smith and Warner to the one-day side had looked like they could not come soon enough during the side’s recent run of losses.
But Australia's recent performances in India, where they've followed two tight ODI defeats with a pair of clutch victories to set up a series decider on Wednesday, looks to have increased competition for batting spots in the World Cup squad of 15.
Ponting has admitted concern over the way Australia have played spin in the middle overs during their barren recent stretch in ODI cricket, though the likes of Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell and even newcomer Ashton Turner have all thrived in the ongoing series against arguably the most potent spin attack in the world on their home turf.
Warner and Smith's quality will be hard to ignore; between them, they have 22 ODI tons, the same number of hundreds Australia's entire squad in India have put together.
But bedding down an effective game-plan to match it with the world's best while also reintegrating two players who will have missed 14 months of international cricket by the time their World Cup opener against Afghanistan arrives looms as one of Ponting's major challenges in new role.
"If you look at the way the best teams go about it, (how) England and India go about it now, they tend to go particularly hard at the top of the order," Ponting said of Australia’s rivals.
"England especially go really hard to a point where (only) if it gets to like a three or four for 50 then they'll have (Eoin) Morgan or even (Jos) Butler to come in the middle order and slow things down a little bit and keep wickets in hand. And then try and explode at the end again.
"I haven't spoken in depth with Justin about that (strategy) yet, because we haven't been exactly sure about what our team line up is going to be. There's still a big question around Warner and Smith and do they come straight back in.
"Until we know the answer to that, we don't know what our style of play is going to be, because you could have guys that are not quite as skilled … in those positions that those guys are going to bat in.
"But once we know if those guys are coming back in, I’ve certainly got a pretty clear picture in my head of the way I’d like to see this team play through the World Cup."
Australia's World Cup fixtures
May 25: (warm-up) England v Australia, Southampton
May 27: (warm-up) Australia v Sri Lanka, Southampton
June 9: India v Australia, The Oval
June 12: Australia v Pakistan, Taunton
June 15: Sri Lanka v Australia, The Oval
June 20: Australia v Bangladesh, Trent Bridge
June 25: England v Australia, Lord's
July 9: Semi-Final 1, Old Trafford
July 11: Semi-Final 2, Edgbaston
July 14: Final, Lord's
For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE