Sydney – Australian cricket needs disgraced ex-captain Steve Smith and he is likely to be welcomed back with open arms, former skipper Steve Waugh forecast on Tuesday, although it might be tougher for David Warner.
The pair are serving one-year suspensions from international and state cricket over their part in the ball-tampering scandal against South Africa in March, while opener Cameron Bancroft was banned for nine months.
“We need him back in Australian cricket,” Waugh told Fox Sports Australia of 29-year-old Smith, who has played 64 Tests.
“You can’t lose someone of his quality overnight and expect to replace it and he’s still only relatively young.”
All three players accepted responsibility for the scandal that rocked the sport, with Smith’s tearful apology on his arrival back in Australia tugging at the heartstrings.
Waugh said fans “still adore him”.
“The Australian public, they are forgiving,” he said.
“He (Smith) made a mistake and he’s paid a heavy price for it.
“But if he gets back out there and plays with the same enthusiasm and passion, he loves playing cricket, he loves scoring runs, he wants to get back playing for Australia, I think Australians will move past what happened before.
“They obviously remember it, but they’re big enough to realise you can make a mistake and grow from that and be stronger.”
Warner, a dynamic batsman but a divisive figure in the game, may find it harder to earn acceptance again.
He was charged by Cricket Australia with developing the plot to use sandpaper to alter the ball and telling Bancroft to carry it out.
Despite this, Waugh said he hoped Warner would also get a second chance.
“I hope so, you have to give guys an opportunity to redeem themselves. They’ve apologised and paid a heavy price,” he said, but warned it would not be easy for any of them to bounce back to the top.
“It’s going to be a challenge for all of them to come back, it’s not going to be as easy as people think,” he said.
“You’re out for 12 months, the game does move on, you lose that aura of invincibility a little bit, you become a bit more fragile, a bit of self-doubt creeps in.
“So it’s going to be a real challenge for all three of those guys to come back strong.”