Over lunch, Steven Smith mulls Australia’s batting ahead of World Cup defence
Mitchell Starc and Steven Smith met for lunch and talked briefly about the World Cup. @Getty

Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc has revealed that his 2015 World Cup-winning captain Steven Smith has kept close tabs on the defending champions’ batting struggles, and that the two – along with Pat Cummins – discussed in brief the way to approach the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup.

The trio caught up for lunch in Sydney ahead of New South Wales’ next Sheffield Shield game – in which Starc and Cummins will reunite with Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins for the first time since the since the controversial Newlands Test match in March – and Starc said Smith was in good spirits as they talked about a range of topics, but not about an early return to cricket.

“He’s talked about his grade cricket coming up and he’s playing in the UAE (T20) League at the back end of December. There wasn’t heaps about the immediate future,” Starc said. “There was a little bit of talk about World Cup time and some line-ups there. He’s got a smile on his face, he’s been around training, he’s talking about having to get back and get himself a bit fitter as well. He’s in good spirits and it’s good to see him around with bat and ball in hand.”

Smith is currently serving a 12-month ban from international cricket for his role in the ball-tampering controversy that erupted in South Africa in March. Barred from playing for his state New South Wales and in the Big Bash League, Smith played in the Global T20 Canada tournament and the Caribbean Premier League over the past few months and most recently turned out for Sutherland in Sydney’s Premier Cricket competition.

There were reports of Cricket Australia reducing the bans on Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft ahead of Australia’s Test series with India starting December 6, but the board last month stated that the penalties will stand.

It is widely believed that Smith and Warner – whose bans end on March 29, 2019 – will return to Australia’s ODI squad for the World Cup. Australia, who recently lost an unprecedented seven successive ODIs and on Sunday slumped to their 18th loss in 21 matches, have 13 more ODIs until the start of the tournament.