Holdingwilley The second best way to enjoy cricket
Due to some technical problems, we are unable to cover live matches on our site and app. We are working on it and will be back soon. Please stay tuned for more.

The return of Smith and Warner

( 605 views )

Steve_Smith_David_Warner_Australia_CricketAlmost exactly a year after their bans from international cricket, Australia’s Steven Smith and David Warner return to the spotlight. Smith and Warner, along with Cameron Bancroft, were served one-year bans by Cricket Australia in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal where they were found guilty.

The pair spent time with the Australian one-day squad during the first part of their reintegration in Dubai, before coming to India for the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The news of the involvement of Smith and Warner in the ball-tampering scandal had shaken the cricket world to the core, and particularly shattered Australian fans who idolized them. The past twelve months has been a roller coaster ride for Australian cricket. The team, under new leadership and with some inexperienced players, initially struggled to find its identity in the absence of their two star batsmen. But now that the team has finally found its groove – they beat India in their own den 3-2 in an ODI series recently and won the ongoing 5 ODI series against Pakistan in the UAE within 3 matches – it will be interesting to see how Smith and Warner fit into this new culture, built by coach Justin Langer and the two captains: Tim Paine in Tests and Aaron Finch in limited-overs cricket.

For now, things appear to be going smoothly. Warner said to the press, after meeting their teammates in Dubai, "It's been awesome, like we didn't really leave. The boys have been really accepting of us coming in with open arms and a lot of big hugs and cuddles. It's good to see the spirit they are in after a great series win in India."

Smith was equally delighted. "It's been great to be back around the group, they've been really welcoming again and it's almost like we never left so everything is on the right track,” he said.

With the ICC 50-over World Cup just a couple of months away, Australia would love to have their star batsmen back in the fold. However, will they be able to shake off the stigma of the scandal? How will their presence now affect the young team members of the World Cup squad? And, most importantly, will Steve Smith and David Warner ever be able to become the kind of batsmen they were before?

Smith and Warner – The road to redemption

More than the ban itself, the backlash from their countrymen, from the cricketing community at large, and seeing their reputation ripped to shreds, must have scarred Smith and Warner deeply. Before the ban, Smith was one of the best batsmen in the world. The diminutive Warner, though in your face and boorish at times, was greatly respected and feared for his aggressive batting skills. Now, they have been away from the game for a year and, by their own admission, have goon through immense emotional turmoil in the past twelve months.

Things will be rough for both players on the comeback trail.

Former Australian leg-spinner, Shane Warne, however, feels that is ban would have helped both the cricketers. "Sometimes having an enforced lay off -- like I'm used to, I had 12 months off myself -- what that means is you become really fresh," he said. "You freshen your mind up, you become hungry again and realize how important cricket is to you.”

Warne isn’t too far off. The break, and being away from the spotlight, would have certainly helped Smith and Warner look deeply within and analyze where they went wrong.

Both players have been playing club cricket to get back in the flow – with good results. In his first competitive appearance since the ban, Smith hit 61 off 41 balls for the Toronto Nationals in the inaugural Global T20 Canada league in June 2018. In September 2018, David Warner scored an unbeaten 155* in a match-winning chase for Randwick-Petersham in the new Sydney club cricket season. Smith made 85 for his Sutherland club in the same season.

Smith and Warner both participated in the in the 2018 season of Caribbean Premier League. They didn’t set the league on fire but they did get some valuable competitive cricket practice. Warner was in pretty good touch in the Bangladesh Premier League earlier this year and his last three scores for the Sylhet Sixers were 61*, 63 and 19.

Both batsmen have hence been in decent nick. The ongoing season of the IPL – where Warner smashed 85 from 53 balls on his return to Sunrisers Hyderabad and Smith made a game 20 from 16 balls for the Rajasthan Royals – will be a solid test for their return to regular cricket. The competition and quality of cricket in the tournament is intense and will be a very good trial for both these top order batsmen. They have done well in India and the IPL before. If they can find some decent form, it would do their confidence a world of good.

In fact, Shane Warne feels that Smith and Warner can now help Australia win the World Cup.

"They'll walk straight back in, they'll be hungry. They'll be a bit nervous in the first few games but that'll be good for them, they'll be excited and I would expect them to play as good as they always have."

If the repentant duo can indeed help Australia defend their World Cup crown, or even make it to the final four, then their path to redemption might just get a lot easier.

The road ahead

In their recent ODI series victory against India, Australia found some unlikely batting heroes in Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb and Ashton Turner. With their batting line up now having plenty of solid choices, the team management will have some tough decisions to make on how to fit Steve Smith and David Warner into this set up.

Ricky Ponting, who will be Langer's assistant at the World Cup, feels that the pair still has to show that they are the best in the world. What’s more, both the players have undergone elbow surgery in the last two months and may not be in their best physical shape yet.

And even if they overcome fitness and form, winning the respect of the people they have hurt with their actions will be the toughest to achieve. While the initial rage and displeasure around the issue has subsided, it will be difficult for the duo to shake off the memories of their sins anytime soon. Perhaps the fans at home may let go eventually, but the ones from around the world, especially in this age of social media vitriol, may not so forgiving.

The only thing that Smith and Warner can do at present is to do what they do best – bat. When they are out in the middle, ignore everything else and concentrate on scoring runs for the team. Hopefully, with time, no controversies and good performances, they will be able to put this whole ugly saga behind them and find their place back in the cricketing world.

Clearly, it is a tough road ahead.

Lesser mortals would have perhaps already given up by now. But Smith and Warner are made of sterner stuff. They have been punished for their wrongs. And now they have a point to prove. Not to the world, but to themselves. That they still belong. That they still have it.



Rate this article:

About the author

Articles:
76
Reads:
171580
Avg. Reads:
2258
FB Likes:
1125
Tweets:
0

Two things in my life always fascinated me: cricket and writing. When I learnt that I could combine...

View Full Profile

Related Content