Steven Smith can expect warm welcome in club cricket: Steve Waugh
Steven Smith will feature in Sydney’s Premier Cricket competition starting September 22. @Getty

Steve Waugh expects the suspended former Australia captain Steven Smith to be welcomed into club cricket in Sydney this weekend as he continues to pursue competitive playing opportunities.

Smith and David Warner, currently serving 12-month bans from international cricket for their roles in the ball-tampering controversy that erupted in South Africa, are set to feature in Sydney’s Premier Cricket competition starting September 22.

“I think they’ll still adore him [Smith],” Waugh told Fox Sports News on Tuesday. “The Australian public, they are forgiving. He made a mistake and he’s paid a heavy price for it. But if he gets back out there and plays with the same enthusiasm and passion – he loves playing cricket, he loves scoring runs, he wants to get back playing for Australia – I think Australians will move past what happened before.

“They obviously remember it, but they’re big enough to realise you can make a mistake and grow from that and be stronger. We need him back in Australian cricket. You can’t lose someone of his quality overnight and expect to replace it and he’s still only relatively young.”

Barred from playing for New South Wales and in the Big Bash League, both Warner and Smith played in the Global T20 Canada tournament and the CPL over the past few months. In the Premier Cricket competition, Smith will represent his old club Sutherland and Warner will turn out for Randwick-Petersham.

According to Waugh, while the former Test captain and vice-captain should be welcomed by the public as they play club cricket, what happens when their bands end in 2019 is not so straightforward.

“It’s going to be a challenge for all of them to come back in to the fold. It’s not going to be as easy as people think,” he said.  “You’re out of the game 12 months, the game does move on, you lose that aura of invincibility about you a bit, you become a bit more fragile, maybe a bit of self-doubt creeping in. It’s going to be a real challenge to come back strong.”