Ricky Ponting, the former captain who will take up a role as consultant for Australia at the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019, said that Steve Smith and David Warner will have to earn their places back in the side.
Until a month ago, Australia seemed like they desperately needed Smith and Warner back in the side to bolster their batting fortunes, and had gone over a year without winning a one-day international series.
However, recently, the likes of Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb and Ashton Turner proved their worth in the ODIs in India to win their side a come-from-behind 3-2 victory. They ensured there would be competition for places among the batsmen.
'It's like two brothers coming home' – Australia enjoy a special reunion as Steve Smith and David Warner join the dressing room for the first time since being banned.— ICC (@ICC) March 17, 2019
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Warner and Smith, who complete their respective 12-month suspensions on March 29, are the undisputed best batsmen in the team. But with others doing well in their absence, the two will have to make their way back into the team on the weight of runs and not mere reputation.
"They still have to prove they are the best players, especially on the back of what has happened in the recent ODIs against India," Ponting said in an interview with the Times of India. "Those guys have not played any high-level cricket for a long time. IPL becomes really important for them."
Ponting said there was plenty of depth in the Australian side, and that after the triumph against India, the team should be considered as serious contenders for the World Cup.
"If it's Warner, Smith, Khawaja, (Aaron) Finch, (Glenn) Maxwell, Turner, (Adam) Zampa, (Mitchell) Starc, (Pat) Cummins and (Josh) Hazlewood ... it ends up being a pretty amazing line-up as well, with Nathan Lyon as the second spinner," said Ponting.
"There's great depth there. 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, Ponting thinks India have a good claim as favourites to win the coveted trophy, provided that Virat Kohli, their captain, has a good tournament.
"None of the guys in the change room are panicking, the support staff is not feeling down after this defeat" – Virat Kohli downplays India's ODI series defeat to Australia ahead of #CWC19. #INDvAUS— ICC (@ICC) March 14, 2019
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"Virat's ODI record ... is unbelievable," he said. "That's why I feel India are a very dangerous side. If Virat has a good World Cup, India will win.
"His numbers show that he is the best. How old is he? Maybe 30, and he is going to play another 200 games. I don't think there will be many people who are going to argue against him being the best."
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