Elbow concern, lack of practice put Smith’s World Cup in doubt
Steve Smith's road to the World Cup is a complicated one. (AFP Image)

As Australia wait for Steve Smith and David Warner to return to bolster their World Cup plans, it appears as if the former captain may not be a guarantee entry for the five-time World Champions. Both Warner and Smith underwent elbow surgeries, and while the opener’s timely return seems imminent, there are some concerns about the former captain’s return considering the seriousness of the injury and the amount of time it leaves him to prepare for the World Cup.

Australia coach Justin Langer admitted it would be a crazy idea to not pick Smith and Warner when they are cleared on their suspensions but insisted the duo should not be rushed back without proper game time behind them. This is where it becomes dicey for Smith, since the former captain is expected to be in an elbow brace for another three weeks, following which he is expected to undergo extensive rehabilitation.

Warner is expected to be fit ahead of Australia’s five ODIs against Pakistan in the UAE, which will provide him with substantial match practice, if not enough. But the road to recovery remains a complicated one for Smith, whose timeframe for recovery can only be assessed once his elbow is out of the brace.

“We’ve got to keep working on how they are with their elbows, first. 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,” Langer said. “[Re-integration] has been going on for some time now. 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.”

Australia’s downward spiral in limited-overs is an alarming concern, but with their Test form in equal shambles, it may not be a bad idea to let Smith heal completely and get him 100 percent ahead of the Ashes. As revealed by captain Tim Paine, he expects Smith and Warner to play a huge part in the series, almost immediately after the World Cup.

“It’s a tough schedule as we all know but we’ve got a World Cup coming up as well,” Langer said. “We want to get as close to the World Cup squad as we can over the next 12 games [against India and Pakistan], including the two T20s. We’ve got to keep our eyes very clearly on what’s best for the team, not what’s best for individuals. That doesn’t work. It’d be hard to do that. It’d be good for some individuals to do that, but we’ve also got to win the World Cup. That’s just the schedule we deal with.

“It’s unprecedented that you have a World Cup and an Ashes straight after. We’re lucky that we’ve got really good depth of talent in Australian cricket, so we’ll manage it as best we can. In Australian cricket every game’s important. A cricket or Shield cricket or county cricket, every game’s important for keeping your name in for selection.”