Smith and Warner spent a year each out of the Australian side to serve bans for ball-tampering. They have since returned and are due to play their first internationals when the World Cup gets underway in just over a week’s time in England and Wales.
Both batsmen underwent elbow surgeries during their time off, but are primed to pick up from they left. Warner has already shown imperious form in the 2019 Indian Premier League, where he topped the season’s run charts with 692 runs in 12 innings, with one hundred and eight fifties.
Smith also showed peak form during the three warm-up games against a New Zealand XI in Brisbane, returning scores of 89* and 91*. “Every side will be wary of Australia,” Waugh told the ICC. “They know the potential of the Australian side. There’s been turmoil in Australian cricket over the last 12 months, but that has been put aside now. We’ve got our best players available to be picked in Smith and Warner.”
Australia are the current and five-time world champions. True to that reputation, they have raised their game right in time ahead of the World Cup. Starting in 2018, Australia had won just three out of 18 ODIs before beginning their turnaround halfway through their limited-overs tour of India.
Trailing 0-2, Australia picked up a hat-trick of wins to register a remarkable come-from-behind series victory against the favourites, and hosts, India. They then took that form to the United Arab Emirates, sweeping Pakistan 5-0 to keep their unblemished record against their opponent in the UAE intact.
Australia have won four of the last five World Cups
As a result, they have not only proven that their success against India was no flash in the pan, they have also sounded out a warning to other teams around the world that they would be no pushovers come the World Cup. “Their form was very poor, but all of a sudden, they’ve won their last eight matches, and they’ve got Smith and Warner in the team,” Waugh said. “And that is ominous for other sides, they know how good these sides are.
“Australia will be one of the teams… probably not the favourite for the tournament, but the team that other sides will be probably most fearful of. They could do some damage. So I think Australia could go really deep in the tournament.
“England to me are probably the favourites – their form has been outstanding over the last couple of years. They are playing at home. Sometimes, that creates more pressure, but they’ve got a really good coach in Trevor Bayliss to keep the players grounded. So I think England would be favourites, and probably Australia and India on that second line of favouritism.”