Twenty20 form pivotal in Smith and Warner World Cup hopes
The form of David Warner and Steve Smith in overseas Twenty20 tournaments will play an important role in determining whether they are selected for next year's one-day international World Cup.
As he praised the maturity of Warner, Cricket Australia chief Kevin Roberts declared on Friday it was important selection criteria for all players was the same, although that remains questionable because the suspended pair cannot play international cricket until March 29, meaning they would have missed the home summer, a one-day series in India and, most likely, a five-match series against Pakistan with the dates for that event yet to be settled.
There is a possibility that series, slated to begin at the end of March, could allow the two men to play in a couple of matches.
There will be players in the Australian one-day squad this summer who know they are likely to be dropped should Smith and Warner return at the next available opportunity from their bans for their roles in the ball-tampering scandal.
In the meantime, they both are set to begin their bid for World Cup selection in the Bangladesh Super League. Smith is then expected to play in the Pakistan Super League, with both then heading to the premier Twenty20 tournament, the Indian Premier League.
The 15-man Australian squad for the London showpiece event must be lodged with the International Cricket Council by April 23, falling during the IPL and before the Australian side gathers for a pre-tour camp in Brisbane.
Warner and Smith have been heavy run scorers in NSW grade cricket this summer but their form against international-standard players will be important.
"Well obviously take their form in those tournaments into account, so that will be important to watch," Roberts said on ABC Radio.
"From what I hear around the traps, theres no concerns with the form of Steve and Dave, so its just a matter of that continuing out in the middle as opposed to in the nets. And us assessing that, and communicating with them as frequently as possible over these next few months."
While their form will be important, their history will also be a factor, for they remain two of the game's match-winning batsmen – something the current teams lacks.
Warner has more than 4000 one-day international runs at 43.43 with 14 centuries, while Smith has almost 3500 runs at 41.84, with eight centuries.
Asked what impact their re-integration could have on teammates, Roberts replied: "I dont really know. But I think whats important is our commitment to that integration process, working with the three sanctioned players, making sure that weve got selection criteria that are the same for all players, whether they are the sanctioned players or not.
"Theres got to be consistency, fairness and justice in our selection criteria and so thats our focus on making the road as smooth as possible."
Issues over selection criteria, and how players are informed of their demotion, formed part of the Longstaff review released in November.
In a week where Warner had been in the spotlight because Smith and Cameron Bancroft had opted to conduct television interviews, with each reinforcing Warner's role in the ball-tampering scandal, Roberts praised the former vice-captain's maturity.
"I spoke to Dave on Christmas Eve, or just prior to Christmas, but having spoken to him since the interviews," he said.
"I think Daves to be commended for his maturity and the way that hes handling the situation at the moment, and of course our approach is the same with all three players."
Bancroft confirmed Warner had instigated the plan to use a piece of sandpaper to rough the ball during the Cape Town Test in March, while Smith walked by the pair and did nothing to stop what they were up to. Warner has not publicly responded to the interviews, which have backed him into a corner and arguably have left him isolated.
Warner is said to have been taken aback by the interviews but players association chief Alistair Nicholson said he was "okay but being low key".
Nicholson, however, said he does not expect Warner's return to the Australian side to be more difficult than his fellow suspended teammates.
The timing of the Smith and Bancroft interviews have raised questions as to why they were done and aired during the showpiece Test of the summer.
Bancroft, on the cusp of returning in the Big Bash League this weekend, had to go public at some stage but Smith's timing, initially using a Vodafone advertisement to declare he had been in a "dark space" but was now a better person, has raised questions about his management's advice.
"Steve is away and then jumping into T20 tournaments, Bangladesh, and then Pakistan as well, so he is effectively leaving, so there was a case of: 'Well now is the time to do that and now I can get into my cricket, almost the start of my playing journey back'. That is something he and his manager can talk through more," Nicholson said.
Jon Pierik is a sports writer with The Age, focusing primarily on AFL football, cricket and basketball. He has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.