With only days of their 12-month bans remaining, Steve Smith and David Warner have joined up with the Australian squad for the first time since the ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town last year.
Smith and Warner have been welcomed back into the Australian fold with “hugs and cuddles” at a team meet-up in Dubai.
After reconnecting with the national cricket squad for the first time since they were suspended, Steve Smith and Dave Warner both said it felt like they never left their teammates.
Former captain Smith and former vice-captain Warner joined the Aussies in the UAE ahead of their five-match ODI series against Pakistan and the star duo, whose suspensions end in a fortnight, made a seamless transition back into the team environment.
Smith and Warner sat in on a team meeting in Dubai as the squad prepares to face Pakistan in five ODIs. The suspended pair will not play in any of those matches, but will head to their IPL franchises next week and are expected to be selected for the upcoming World Cup.
After a meeting that was said to have focussed mainly on team culture and behaviour, both Smith and Warner spoke of the warm reception they received from the group.
“It’s been awesome, it’s like we didn’t really leave,” Warner told cricket.com.au.
“The boys have been very accepting of us coming in, with open arms. Lots of big hugs and cuddles.”
Smith echoed Warner’s sentiments, and spoke of the positive impact the recent ODI series win over India has had on the team.
“It seems like there’s a really good energy in the group coming off the back of a really good win in India. Spirits are really high,” Smith said.
“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.”
Neither player will feature in the series and instead are heading to the subcontinent for the Indian Premier League which begins on Saturday.
Both Smith and Warner revealed that the big focus of their discussions with the team while in Dubai were around the values that have been instilled in the team in their absence following the sandpaper scandal in South Africa.
“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,” Smith said.
“Just making sure everyone’s on the right path and heading in the same direction so it’s been very beneficial and really good.”
Since the drama of Cape Town, the Australian men’s cricket team has been on a mission to rebuild its image and to do away with the win-at-all-costs culture that inquests say directly led to the cheating scandal.
Australia coach Justin Langer said it was like two brothers returning home.
“Brothers leave home for different reasons in families so it’s nice to have them back in there, they’ve been received really well, we had a good night together last night, we had some great meetings today so it’s been really positive,” Langer said.
Ricky Ponting, who will be Langer’s assistant at the World Cup, said the pair had to show they were still among the best players during their IPL stints and Langer acknowledged it was an important period for them.
“The IPL will be a really important time for both because it gives them the opportunity to play some competitive cricket again, to hit a lot of balls, to get moving again, get the feel of the game,” Langer said. “It will be about getting back into the rhythm of high class cricket and I’m sure they’ll get plenty out of that.”
Both players have battled their own elbow injuries over the past few months, with Smith’s even briefly putting his World Cup hopes in doubt.
“I’m really excited about playing again,” Smith said.
“The elbow is tracking really well, I’ve been batting for the last two weeks, I’m able to play all shots and I’ve got my power back. I’m tracking really well and I’m just excited to play again. 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.”
Australia’s squad for series vs Pakistan:
1. Aaron Finch (c), 2. Pat Cummins (vc), 3. Alex Carey (vc), 4. Jason Behrendorff, 5. Nathan Coulter-Nile, 6. Peter Handscomb, 7. Usman Khawaja, 8. Nathan Lyon, 9. Shaun Marsh, 10. Glenn Maxwell, 11. Jhye Richardson, 12. Kane Richardson, 13. Marcus Stoinis, 14. Ashton Turner, 15. Adam Zampa
March 22: First ODI at Sharjah
March 24: Second ODI at Sharjah
March 27: Third ODI at Abu Dhabi
March 29: Fourth ODI at Dubai
March 31: Fifth ODI at Dubai
Credits: With input from Cricket.com.au / Featured Image Credit: Cricket.com.au