BACK ON BOARD, ALMOST
Cricbuzz Staff •
Both Smith and Warner insisted that the players having been very “welcoming” and “accepting”. © Getty
Steven Smith and David Warner have revealed to have felt like “they’d never left” after getting to spend some time with the Australian squad for the first time since they were suspended nearly 12 months. With less than two weeks to go for their year-long bans to come to an end, the two senior batsmen had flown to Dubai to meet with their teammates and the coaching staff in the lead-up to the five-match ODI series against Pakistan. And both former captains insisted on the players having been very “welcoming” and “accepting”.
“It’s been awesome. It’s like we didn’t really leave. The boys were very accepting of us coming in, with open arms and a lot of big hugs and cuddles and no it’s been great,” said Warner.
Smith and Warner will be available for selection from March 29, and are expected to be brought back into the mix in England for the World Cup and the Ashes. Though the team has struggled with results in their absence, and understandably so, Aaron Finch & Co are coming of a remarkable series victory in India, where they came back from 0-2 to become the first Australian team to win there in a decade. And Smith spoke about the “good energy” and the “high spirits” within the camp as they prepare for another tough series against Pakistan in the UAE.
“It seems like there’s a really good energy around the group at the moment coming of the back of what was a really terrific win in India. The spirits are really high and the boys have had a few down days, and slowly getting ready obviously for the upcoming series against Pakistan. But, it’s been great to be back around the group,” he said.
According to a report on cricket.com.au, the players were given the platform to clear the air with the duo, as part of what is being built up as a “reintegration” program for the two lead characters in the ugly ball-tampering episode last year. Australian cricket has undergone a metamorphosis since the Cape Town fiasco in terms of the way they play the sport, and the culture they are keen on embracing. And both Smith and Warner insisted that the focus of the many meetings they had within the camp were around aligning themselves with the “values” the present team drives itself on.
“It’s about making sure that we are aligned with the team values moving forward. I’ve obviously been out for 12 months and there’s been a big change, which is great, and it’s about us accepting that playing what our roles should be in the team moving forward,” said Warner. Smith seconded his views saying the focus of the meetings were about, “the values that are sort of instilled in the team at the moment and making sure we are on the right path looking forward to what’s coming up – a huge World Cup and an Ashes series in England. It’s pretty exciting times ahead for the team and just making sure everyone’s on the right path and heading in the same direction.”
There’s been a lot of talk around Australian cricket over the last few months about how the dressing-room would welcome back the former leaders following their suspension. Coach Justin Langer elaborated on the bonhomie and camaraderie between the returning duo in dramatic fashion saying, “It is like two brothers coming back home. Brothers leave home for different reasons in families. So nice to have them back in there. They’ve been received really well. We had a good night together last night. It’s great to have them back in the team.”
Langer also believed that the duo’s “hunger for playing well and to make a lot of runs” will bode well for the team going forward and also about how he hoped the team could continue building on the present culture and continue making “Australians proud”.
“They’ve gone through a really tough time. A 12-month suspension is unprecedented really. As a coach, when you got two guys with their runs and experience coming back into a team that’s doing well, that’s pretty exciting,” he said.
While there was some discussion during the Australian cricket summer about perhaps having Smith and Warner return immediately upon the end of their suspension periods–for the final two ODIs against Pakistan – the selectors decided to stick with the squad they’d picked for India. It meant that Smith and Warner will be making their returns to competitive cricket in the IPL. And they sounded very excited about the prospect of getting back on to the big stage via the most decorated T20 league in the world. Smith also spoke about how his injured elbow was healing well and about “getting the power back” into his shot.
“I love playing in India. The IPL’s a terrific tournament and the elbow’s tracking really well. I have been batting for the last two weeks, and yeah able to play all shots,” he said.
“I love going there and playing that tournament. It’s a great feel, great buzz, and good energy and India always put on a good show,” Warner added.
Langer too felt that the IPL would allow his two key players to get back into the “rhythm of high-class cricket” and about being confident that they’ll both plenty out of it and be prepared for their eventual comebacks to the team in England.