Steven Smith

‘Elbow is feeling good’ – Smith returns to nets after surgery

Steve Smith, the banned Australia batsman, has returned to the nets for the first time since undergoing elbow surgery, as he races against time to be fit for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 in England and Wales.

Smith and David Warner are both nearing the end of their year-long bans for ball-tampering and will be eligible for selection for the World Cup 2019. However, their returns to international cricket were muddled when both batsmen returned early from the 2018-19 Bangladesh Premier League with elbow complaints.

Smith suffered the more severe injury and it was even rumoured at one stage that he could be held back from the World Cup to preserve him for the subsequent Ashes series in England. While a timeline for his return is still not set, Smith posted a video on Instagram, where he said the elbow felt good. 

“Great to have my first hit back today,” he wrote alongside a short clip of him having a hit. “The elbow is feeling good.”

Warner, meanwhile, is understood to be making good progress and is looking at playing a grade match to get match ready. Both batsmen will be eligible for selection on 29 March, the day of Australia’s fourth ODI against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates. However, it is highly unlikely for either batsman to make an immediate comeback, especially Smith, who isn’t even expected to have fully recovered by then.

Justin Langer, the Australia coach, has already indicated that the Indian Premier League could be a possible route back for both players. “From all accounts, they should both be ready for the IPL, which is really positive,” Langer said. “Dave’s probably a little more advanced, but my understanding is they’ll be ready to go in the not-too-distant future.”

Steven Smith and David Warner played against each other in a Sydney Grade Cricket match in November 2018
Steven Smith and David Warner played against each other in a Sydney Grade Cricket match in November 2018

Australia play 10 straight ODIs in the build-up to the World Cup, starting with the first ODI against India on Saturday, 2 March. After the five-match series concludes in the country, they head straight to the UAE for five more games against Pakistan.

As their final stretch of preparation ahead of the big event, these ten games will be Australia’s last chance to settle on a combination for the World Cup, although with Smith and Warner’s return not set yet, they will likely have to make some late tinkering to their squad for the event. Australia have a deadline of 23 April to name the squad for the World Cup, although it can be tweaked later, with the approval of the International Cricket Council’s event technical committee.

Australia’s World Cup squad will gather in Brisbane in early May for a training camp that includes warm-up matches against New Zealand, before flying out to the UK in mid-May.