- First time pair have been included since bans
- Focus of stopover in UAE is to break ice with teammates
Steve Smith and David Warner’s formal reintegration will start earlier than expected, with the banned duo to join the ODI squad for one day in the UAE.
Smith and Warner are set to front World Cup teammates later this week in Dubai prior to joining their respective Indian Premier League franchises for the Twenty20 tournament that begins on 23 March.
The face-to-face meetings are the surest sign yet the gifted batsmen will be part of Australia’s World Cup defence, as has long been the widespread expectation.
Smith and Warner are not expected to train, with the focus of their stopover instead on breaking the ice after the year in exile.
The stopover will also give medical staff a chance to assess the pair’s fitness after they underwent elbow surgery in January. Both players have resumed batting but it is unclear how restricted they will be in the field during the IPL.
Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns recently suggested Smith and Warner, now in the final three weeks of year-long suspensions, would likely have played ODIs against Pakistan on 29 and 31 March if not for their injuries.
Coach Justin Langer and selectors will not rush the former captain and vice-captain back into the XI, having left them out of the 15-man squad that will travel from Delhi to Dubai on Thursday.
The visit will give Smith and Warner a chance to start repairing any strained relationships within the touring party.
It will be their first exposure to a team culture and high-performance environment that has undergone major changes under Langer since the Cape Town cheating scandal.
Langer has been in regular dialogue with both Smith and Warner since being appointed coach but, up until now, Smith and Warner have been kept at arm’s length from national squads.
Langer, who likened himself to a soap opera director and described Australian cricket as a dysfunctional family this summer, wants his charges to focus on maintaining the momentum they’ve generated with back-to-back wins over India.
Smith and Warner’s visit will fall long before Australia start their five-match series against Pakistan on 22 March.
Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb and Jhye Richardson are members of the current ODI squad who were also on deck at Newlands when the ball-tampering furore erupted.
Cummins has backed Smith and Warner to make seamless returns. “They are two really good guys … I don’t see any problems,” Cummins said.
Khawaja suggested the squad is content with a scenario in which two incumbent batsmen will be axed to accommodate Smith and Warner.
“They are world-class players and they’ve been amazing for the one-day team … when they do come back they’ll be welcomed with open arms,” Khawaja said.