National coach Justin Langer has given Steve Smith and David Warner a ringing endorsement to play in the World Cup but cast further doubt over the pair making instant returns from suspension as selectors close in on their squad for Australia's title defence.
With no Tests until the Ashes, selectors have now returned their focus on Australia's preparation for the 50-over showpiece with the naming of a squad for the white-ball tour of India expected later this week.
Steve Smith and David Warner may have to wait until the World Cup to make their return to the Australian team.Credit:Seven News
Australia's former on-field leaders cannot be considered for the five one-day internationals in India but are likely to be available for the final two games of the series against Pakistan.
The Pakistan Cricket Board is yet to finalise the schedule but two games are tipped to come after the pair have completed their 12-month suspensions.
Langer, who is also a selector, wants both men in his World Cup squad but is non-committal to the pair being recalled mid-series against Pakistan, particularly with question marks over their fitness after both underwent elbow surgery in January.
Cricket Australia have not placed a timeframe on either player's return though it is expected Smith will take longer to recover than Warner. There is every likelihood Smith will not be fit by March 29.
The former captain will not have his elbow out of a brace until the end of this month and is likely to need at least several weeks of rehabilitation before he can bat again, ruling him out of the rest of Sydney's grade competition.
Warner was expected to resume batting in the next fortnight with a return date to playing to be determined soon after.
Selectors want to see Warner play competitively before they recall him to the side though there is little cricket he is eligible for between now and the Pakistan series.
The preliminary rounds of Sydney grade cricket finish on March 9 and Warner's club, Randwick-Petersham, are unlikely to qualify for the first-grade finals.
"We've got to keep working on how they are with their elbows, first," Langer said.
"They're going to need to get some cricket leading in before coming back into the squad. It's all part of the management. We'll have to wait and see and what happens there."
While the pair's reintegration continues, Langer seems more concerned by the number of games they can play before the World Cup. Therefore the Indian Premier League, which runs from late next month to mid-May, shapes as a key event in the pair's preparations.
"We're talking about two great players, we're not talking about two really good players – two great players who, on paper, it'd be crazy to not want to have them in the team," Langer said.
The touring party to take on Virat Kohli's men is likely to be similar the squad used for the 2-1 defeat to India last month at home.
Well-earned rest: there is talk Nathan Lyon could be rested from the ODI tour of India despite the spin-friendly conditions.Credit:Elesa Kurtz
Star quicks Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc are likely to return after being rested, placing pressure on Peter Siddle and the out-of-form Billy Stanlake.
There are suggestions off-spinner Nathan Lyon could be rested after a busy summer but there will also be a desire to play him in spin-friendly conditions.
After a lean two years in the 50-over arena, Australia overhauled their side with big hitters Chris Lynn and D'Arcy Short making way for more conservative batsmen like Peter Handscomb and Usman Khawaja. The five-time world champions have won just four of their past 26 games.
"I thought we did really well in that series [against India last month]. We got beaten, they were all close games," Langer said.
"We know the style of play we're looking to play. We did really well so I can't see too many changes."
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