‘Steven Smith, David Warner still have to prove they are the best players’ – Ricky Ponting

Australia

Following Australia’s stunning 3-2 win in the ODI series in India, former Australia captain Ricky Ponting feels Steven Smith and David Warner now have to show that they remain among the best players available by making a mark in the upcoming IPL. The banned duo have been briefly reunited with the Australia squad in the UAE before starting their respective IPL campaigns ahead of what is expected to be an international return at the World Cup.

Minus them and other injured senior players, Australia staged an outstanding comeback from being 2-0 down in the five-match series with a number of unlikely heroes stepping up. With the World Cup around the corner, the returns of Smith and Warner to the team is likely to make it difficult for the selectors to decide who should make way.

Coach Justin Langer had emphasised his preference for Smith and Warner to play some form of top-tier cricket before they were back and Ponting, who has been named Australia’s assistant coach for the World Cup, believes that the team’s recent success increases the importance of the IPL for them.

“I think they [Smith and Warner] still have to prove they are the best players, especially on the back of what has happened in the recent ODIs against India,” Ponting told the Times of India. “Those guys have not played any high-level cricket for a long time. IPL becomes really important for them. IPL is high-level cricket, and if they do well then they will get a lot of confidence. If they don’t have a good IPL, then there will be a few more question marks regarding their names.”

“Two weeks ago, not many would have been talking about Australia as Cup contenders. Now, all of a sudden, they’re right back in the calculations.”

Ricky Ponting

Although Australia’s collective effort was lauded, captain Aaron Finch‘s poor run of form came under scrutiny. Finch, who took over the captaincy from Tim Paine in October last year, has made 240 runs in 11 ODIs since he assumed the role. However, Ponting backed him, adding that he has only become a better captain over the months and he did show signs of regaining form with 93 in Ranchi.

“Yes, he has struggled through the last six or seven months, but I think his captaincy has actually got better. Normally when a captain’s struggling, the team’s struggling. Finch has been struggling but they’ve still found a way to win, so his leadership must have been strong for Australia to come back from 0-2 down in India. If you wind the clock back 12 months, he was Australia’s best ODI player. If he’s in form, it’s a dangerous squad.”

Before the win in India, Australia had lost all the six bilateral ODI series they’d played since 2017. While it raised doubts if they would succeed in their World Cup title defence, Ponting said that the recent win has launched them right back into contention, stressing that the side should now focus on not getting overwhelmed by the success they’ve found in the last few weeks.

“Well, those teams, in 2003, 2007…they were once-in-a-generation teams, we had stars from No. 1 to No. 11. Now, if it’s Warner, Smith, Khawaja, Finch, Maxwell, Turner, Zampa, Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood…it ends up being a pretty amazing line-up as well, with Nathan Lyon as the second spinner. There’s great depth there,” Ponting said.

“Two weeks ago, not many would have been talking about Australia as Cup contenders. Now, all of a sudden, they’re right back in the calculations. That said, it’s also important for Australia not to get carried away by what’s happened these last few days.”

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