ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2019
World Cup beckons for Smith, Warner
Suspended duo to have ample opportunity to find form in overseas Twenty20 competitions as they vie for selection in showpiece 50-over tournament
Andrew Ramsey at the MCG
28 December 2018, 04:59 PM AEST
Banned duo Steve Smith and David Warner will come under consideration for Australia's 2019 World Cup squad even though they remain ineligible to play top-level cricket until a few weeks prior to finalisation of a squad for the showpiece tournament.
Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer Kevin Roberts today confirmed that selection criteria for Australia's World Cup defence – with the 15-man squad to be submitted to the ICC by April 23 next year – will include performances in offshore domestic T20 competitions.
Smith and Warner will see their bans expired on March 29, and the sanctioned pair will have ample opportunity to show they have regained touch against world-class opposition through their stints in the Indian and Bangladesh Premier Leagues (Smith and Warner) and Pakistan Super League (Smith) before the World Cup begins in the UK.
The men's national ODI outfit will begin their World Cup preparations with away fixtures against India and Pakistan in coming weeks, with the series against the latter mooted to begin on March 31, and could yet feature Smith and Warner, whose capacity to warrant a place in Australia's best one-day XI is beyond question.
As with anyone chosen to wear the national colours, it will be their character as well as their competency that ultimately deems them suitable for selection.
Certainly, their respective records across all forms of international cricket prior to their involvement in the sandpaper scandal in South Africa means they are as likely to slip straight back into top-flight competition in the same manner as long-term injury sufferers.
That cohort includes current Test team members Pat Cummins (back) and Usman Khawaja (knee) who have endured lengthy stints on the sidelines in recent years.
Smith and Warner, key members of Australia's 2015 World Cup-winning outfit, are both averaging 50-plus in Sydney Premier Cricket.
As such, they will only be required to show they have found their feet against quality opposition before the squad is finalised and Australia's World Cup campaign begins against Afghanistan at Bristol on June 1.
And the star-studded T20 competitions in which they will participate once their bans are lifted will surely provide that benchmark.
"We'll obviously take their form in those tournaments into account, so that will be important to watch," Roberts told ABC Radio Grandstand prior to play resuming on day three of the third Test against India.
"From what I hear around the traps, there's not concerns with the form of Steve and Dave, so it's just a matter of that continuing out in the middle as opposed to in the nets.
"And us assessing that, and communicating with them as frequently as possible over these next few months."
Roberts confirmed that, as part of that ongoing communication, he spoke with Warner in the days leading up to Christmas and does not believe the subsequent airing of media interviews with Smith and fellow banned player Cameron Bancroft will cause additional angst.
Both Roberts and his counterpart at the Australian Cricketers' Association, Alistair Nicholson, acknowledged today that while the interviews contained "no new news", their timing during the international summer's marquee Test was not altogether ideal.
However, Roberts also conceded that claims the interviews – which included Bancroft's naming of Warner as the instigator of the sandpaper plot – might hinder Warner's re-integration into the Australia dressing room can't be fully assessed until the trio return.
"I don't really know," Roberts said when asked if the recent comments might prove a setback to the players' assimilation into domestic and international cricket.
"But I think what's important is our commitment to that integration process, working with the three sanctioned players.
"Making sure that we've got selection criteria that are the same for all players, whether they are the sanctioned players or not.
"There's got to be consistency, fairness and justice in our selection criteria and so that's our focus on making the road as smooth as possible.
"I spoke to Dave (Warner) on Christmas Eve, or just prior to Christmas, but haven't spoken to him since the interviews (were aired on Boxing Day).
"I think Dave's to be commended for his maturity and the way that he's handling the situation at the moment, and of course our approach is the same with all three players.
"In terms of communication and integration, it's not about Dave or Steve or Cam in isolation, it's about all those three players and about the team given that we know that no individual or group of three players is bigger than the team."
Nicholson also noted he had been in recent contact with Warner, and denied the former opener is feeling isolated given that his co-accused have both spoken publicly this week while he is choosing to maintain his counsel.
"I don't necessarily think it left him isolated because there wasn't anything essentially new there," Nicholson told radio network SEN today in relation to the Smith and Bancroft interviews.
"I had a quick check in with him and he says he is okay and being low key.
"There is still a significant amount of time for those guys to go in their rebuild into the Australian team.
"I think they are serving their bans, they have all served them well and as Aaron (Finch) has commented on, I think that's holding some weight with the team.
"Hopefully the Australian public feel that as well."
Finch, Australia's captain in the ODI and T20 formats, was asked last night about the dressing room's thoughts on Smith and Bancroft's recent interviews and the trio's impending return to cricket, with Bancroft available for selection from tomorrow where he is expected to be named in the Perth Scorchers' squad for their December 30 KFC BBL match in Hobart.
The man currently filling one of the Test opening vacancies created by the suspension of Warner and Bancroft said the banned trio had served their time diligently, and he foresaw no issues when they were returned to the fold.
"From my point of view, they'll be welcomed back with open arms," Finch said.
"There hasn't been any chat about it in the changeroom at all to be fair,"
"Whatever's happened, has happened.
"The punishment has been dealt.
"They've been working really hard off the field to meet every criteria, and go above and beyond everything that has been asked of them, to come back and play international cricket again."
Asked whether he held any concerns about Warner potentially agreeing to a future interview along the lines of those conducted by Smith and Bancroft and possibly raising further issues related to ball-tampering incident, Roberts said bluntly "no, not at all".
"We conducted an investigation (into the ball-tampering incident) nine months ago," he said.
"There was something in the order of 10 to 15 people interviewed through that investigation, so that was thorough.
"There haven't been any suggestions that there were any similar incidents with a foreign object, such as sandpaper, prior to this.
"So I'm not sure that speculating around what may or may not have happened in history is helpful.
"We're focused on today, and on the integration of the players back into the team and what support they need from us, and what support the leadership of the team need from us.
"Whether it be Justin as coach, or Tim or Finchy in their respective captaincy roles."