[unable to retrieve full-text content]
For Steve Smith and David Warner the wait is nearly over.
After a year of soul-searching, knuckling down in the nets, avoiding paparazzi and plying their trade in far-flung Twenty20 leagues, the batsmen are about to be let back into the fold.
From Friday, Australias former captain and vice-captain will be eligible to play for their country once more as their 12-month bans for ball-tampering expire.
The sandpaper scandal that rocked not just Australian cricket but the entire sport may have long since passed but the return of its two instigators sees a new phase of the saga begin.
Without them Australia have been forced to patch themselves up, adapt and move on. With the World Cup just two months away and the Ashes looming at the end of the summer, how will they reintegrate their star batsmen?
Ex-Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne, who himself sat out a year after failing a drugs test in 2003, believes both Smith and Warner will come straight back into the team.
“I think theyll be desperate to show how good they are, how much theyve missed the game, how determined they are and how hungry they are to make runs,” he told City A.M.
“I think theyll be welcomed with open arms back into the side because theyre class acts. Steve Smith is not a bad person. Theyre not Pablo Escobar. They just made a mistake. I think theyll come back in and enjoy playing in a team environment.”
David Warner looked in good form, scoring 85 for Sunrisers Hyderabad today (Source: Getty)
Warnes prediction seems to be spot on. Smith and Warner were invited to join the Australian squad in the United Arab Emirates ahead of a one-day international series against Pakistan to assimilate with their team-mates and received a warm welcome.
“Its like we didnt really leave,” was how Warner summed it up. “[There were] a lot of big hugs and cuddles.”
“Its like two brothers coming home,” was head coach Justin Langers description.
Despite the image of happy families being portrayed to the media, its unlikely to be a straightforward process for Langer. A year is a long time and Australia have moved on in their absence.
After chastening losses there are now finally signs of green shoots Down Under. A 3-1 Test series defeat by South Africa, a 5-0 ODI thrashing by England, Test and T20 reverses against Pakistan and a historic home Test defeat by India have been followed by more positive results.