Steve Smith and David Warner will finish serving their bans in late March 2019, just around two months before the start of the World Cup.
Australia are not scheduled to play any ODI cricket between the time the duo becomes available for national duty and the World Cup, but Mike Hussey believes that shouldn’t prevent them from being automatic selections for the marquee event.
As such, the two played ODI cricket last in January 2018. But Australia have had a terrible run in the format in recent times, meaning alternatives for Smith and Warner – at least at the moment – are few.
Since crashing out of the Champions Trophy in June 2017 after losing to England in a group-stage match, Australia have played 14 ODIs. Of these, they have won just two, losing series in India and at home against England, and are now 4-0 down in a five-match series in England. They are without their three main pacers – Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins – apart from Smith and Warner.
Automatic selection when they are available then? “It’s hard to say so far out, but the quality of player they are you probably would say they are,” said Hussey to the Cricket Australia website.
“As long as they do everything right in the lead up, they’re in good touch skills-wise, they’re in good fitness, no injury concerns and they’ve done all the right things preparation-wise and behavioural-wise as well, then you’d have to think they’d come straight back in because they’re such quality players.”
Though Smith and Warner are missing the ongoing series, they were very much around when Australia lost the Champions Trophy, and were part of the side that lost series to South Africa (2016), New Zealand (2017), India (2017) and England (2018).
Unfortunately for Australia, the tour of England has been fairly disastrous. They have conceded runs in buckets and not been able to score nearly as many as they would have wanted. In an ideal situation, Australia wouldn’t want to bring Smith and Warner back without enough practice, but unless things improve for the ODI team between now and then, there might not be an option.
“It [World Cup] is not a long time away and that’s the one thing that does concern me,” Hussey said. “Leading into a World Cup year, you want to have continuity with your team, you want to get the guys playing together, getting the understanding, the communication out in the middle, knowing their roles very well and feeling comfortable around each other and that’s what England have been able to do.
“That’s why I think they’ll go into the World Cup as favourites because they have such a settled team and they’ve been playing together for quite a period of time now. Now Australia’s not going to have that luxury.
“We’re going to have some quality players coming back in but they’re not going to have much time to really build that continuity and communication between the group.”
Mr Cricket also feels that trying out Aaron Finch at No.5 in the ongoing series against England is a good idea but not ideal, and that if everything goes to plan, Finch should open the innings with Warner at the World Cup.
“I initially thought that Aaron Finch is best suited to the top of the order and he probably still is – he can be so dynamic and destructive getting off to fast starts,” said Hussey, even as he added that his views on that had started to “soften”.
“I think about his combination with David Warner over the last few years from around that World Cup time in 2015, and when they got Australia off to a flying start then Australia won just about every single game. It’s probably the best spot for him. However, I have seen him bat in the middle order in T20 games at the IPL over the last couple of seasons and he does an amazing job. He really is a natural in that role.
“He comes in and seems find the middle of the bat straight away, he seems to be able to find the boundary straightaway even if the field is back – he’s got power to be able to clear the fence. I’ve been really impressed with how he’s played in that middle-order role.”