Steve Smith, the former captain, and opening batsman David Warner returned to the Australian dressing room for the first time since being handed year-long bans for their role in the 2018 ball-tampering incident, reported ICC.
The duo, who are nearing the end of their respective bans, were warmly welcomed back into the fold as Australia enjoyed some time off in the United Arab Emirates, where they are set to take on Pakistan in a five-match one-day international series – their final one-day assignment ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019.
It is understood that the meeting was an opportunity for players to air grievances with the duo and also served as an orientation for the returning batsmen into a new Australian culture.
“It’s been awesome,” Warner said. “It’s like we didn’t really leave. The boys were very accepting of us coming in and with open arms.
“[There were] a lot of big hugs and cuddles. It’s been great. It’s good to see the spirit they’re in after a great series win in India, and I am obviously looking forward to watching them play against Pakistan here, and hopefully, they win that series as well.”
Australia are beginning to hit the right notes ahead of the World Cup. After beginning the year with defeats in the Test and ODI series against India at home, Australia hit back on the return tour, bouncing back from 0-2 to win the five-match ODI series against India 3-2. It was India’s first series defeat at home since 2015, when they lost a five-match series to South Africa by the same margin.
More importantly for Australia, it was their first series win since January 2017, marking an important moment in the tenures of new limited-overs captain Aaron Finch and head coach Justin Langer.
“I guess it’s just been going through the values that are 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,” Smith said.
“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.”
Warner elucidated further on the meeting, which came down to understanding the role the two senior cricketers will play in the team going forward. “[It was about] making sure that we are aligned with the team values moving forward,” he said.
“Obviously, being out for 12 months, there’s been a big change, which is great, and it’s about just accepting that and playing what our role in the team should be moving forward.”
Langer warmly welcomed the duo back, and likened their returns to getting back together with family. “It’s great to have them back in the team,” the coach said. “It’s like two brothers coming home. They have been received really well. We had a good night together last night and had some great meetings today, so it’s been really positive.
“We set some values, probably nine or 10 months ago, with the team, and then [at the meetings], we just had a look at how we are going with those values and how we can use our values and behaviours to keep moving the team forward on and off the field.
“We talked about making Australians proud. We talked about great cricketers and great people, so this is just a really good opportunity with this time between the Indian series and the Pakistan series, just to reset where we are at and reassess where we are at. I think it’s been a really worthwhile exercise.
“As a coach, when you have got two guys with as many runs and experience as they’ve got coming back into a team that’s playing well, that’s very exciting.”
Smith and Warner will now set out on their road back to the national team, starting with the Indian Premier League. Smith felt his elbow recovery was coming along well and he would be ready for the tournament.
“I love playing in India,” he said. “The IPL’s a terrific tournament and the elbow is tracking really well. I’ve been batting for the last two weeks and [am] able to play all shots, got my power back. So I am tracking really well, and I’m just excited to play again.”