Australia head coach Justin Langer offered a forceful endorsement to the participation of David Warner and Steve Smith in the forthcoming World Cup but quickly added a rider that their involvement in the showpiece event at England will be down to how quickly they can recover from their respective elbow injuries.
Langer categorically added that the two 'great players' would by no means be fast-tracked into the national side when their 12-month bans end on March 29 and that both Smith and Warner will have to abide by the re-integration processes set in stone.
With the summer of Test cricket behind them, Cricket Australia has redirected all efforts to the World Cup title defence, with white-ball contests in India and UAE (against Pakistan) rounding off their preparations. While Warner and Smith will not be available for the India series, they will be available for selection for the final two games of the Pakistan series.
It is understood, however, that only Warner stands in line to play the final two games in the Middle East (after his ban ends) with Smith's injury likely to keep him on the sidelines for longer. It is thus likely that Australia could exclude their former captain from the World Cup and have him instead play the concurrently running Australia A series to get ready for the Ashes Tests that immediately succeed the marquee ODI tournament in England.
Warner, who is further ahead than Smith on the recovery road, is unlikely to see much of Grade Cricket action in Sydney with his team, Randwick-Petersham, facing an improbable race to make the first-grade final. The IPL, therefore, will prove to be an important tournament to prove his fitness and match-readiness.
"We've got to keep working on how they are with their elbows, first," Langer said on Tuesday (February 5). "They're going to need to get some cricket before coming back into the squad. It's all part of the management. We'll have to wait and see.
"We know it's been a tough time for them, it's been a tough time for Australian cricket, but we know the word integration has been going for the last nine or ten months, or eleven, it's getting closer isn't it. We're talking about two great players, we're not talking about two really good players. Two great players who on paper we'd be crazy not to have them in the team. It's about how much cricket they get to play between now and then. They'll find opportunities. We'll find opportunities, but I can't say anything else," he added.
Australia face a hectic period of cricket with 12 international games [10 ODIs + 2 T20s] heading into the World Cup warm-ups, but Langer reckoned that it was an unprecedented situation that the players and the management would simply have to find a way to deal with. In effect, Australia will have no time to experiment with their personnel either for the ODIs or the Tests that follow.