With the days dwindling until their first official World Cup fixture against Afghanistan on June 1, the Australian set up still finds itself grappling with the constitution of their preferred top order.
While Australia continue their World Cup preparations next week with a five-match ODI series in the UAE, banned superstars Steve Smith and David Warner will be returning to elite cricket in the Indian Premier League.
Not long ago, that gun pair were expected to walk straight back into Australia’s World Cup XI, but now the situation is less clear due to injuries they have suffered and the good form of a host of other Aussie batsmen.
Smith and Warner reportedly will meet with Australia’s ODI squad in the UAE en route to India, where the IPL will start a week from today.
Nine Entertainment yesterday reported that their first training session back with the Australian team is expected to be in seven or eight weeks from now when a World Cup training camp will be held in Brisbane.
That same article said Smith and Warner may also play in a couple of World Cup practice matches against New Zealand to be held in Brisbane.
In the meantime, that pair both will return from elbow surgeries to play in the IPL, Smith for the Rajasthan Royals and Warner for the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
They could get as many as 12 IPL matches under their belt before Australia’s May training camp. That is in fact very decent preparation for the World Cup. Yes, it is in a different format, but Smith and Warner are both very experienced one-day cricketers, with more than 100 ODIs to their name. They won’t have forgotten how to construct a 50-over innings. Instead what they need now is a chance to build form against high-level international bowling, which is just what they will face in the IPL.
Smith and Warner will tackle many of the world’s best white-ball bowlers during this tournament, which is by far the highest quality T20 league in the world. They will encounter nine most of the world’s top 15 ranked ODI bowlers – Jasprit Bumrah, Rashid Khan, Trent Boult, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kagiso Rabada, Mujeeb Zadran, Imran Tahir and Mohammad Nabi.
These are the very same bowlers they will have to tame in the World Cup if Australia are to defend their trophy. In the IPL they will be buffeted by not just some of the world’s star fast bowlers but also by the best white-ball spinners on the planet.
What’s more is that Smith and Warner will be encountering these elite bowlers in foreign conditions before huge crowds. When you consider all of that it is in fact a very good trial run to prepare for the World Cup – as good as they could possibly have hoped for in the circumstances.
Both men have fantastic career records in the IPL. Across 69 IPL matches Smith has averaged 37 while maintaining a good scoring rate of 7.9 runs per over.
Warner, meanwhile, is one of the best batsmen in IPL history. The left-hander was the league’s leading runscorer in two of his past three seasons and has a career average of 41 at a brilliant scoring rate of 8.5 runs per over.
The IPL is a fiercely difficult league in which many highly rated international stars have tanked. So if Smith and Warner can flourish in this competition, it will be a great indication they are ready to roll for the World Cup.