The five-match ODI series between Pakistan and Australia which will be played in the United Arab Emirates at the end of March is the final international assignment for both sides before the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 which will be held in England from May 30. The series also had an interesting twist, with Steve Smith and David Warner’s bans for the ball-tampering scandal coming to an end. However, Cricket Australia announced that Smith, Warner and Starc have been ruled out of the series against Pakistan. Smith and Warner will apparently continue their rehabilitation program following elbow injuries while Starc suffered a pectoral muscle strain during the Canberra Test against Sri Lanka.
In a statement released by Cricket Australia, chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said both Warner and Smith will be playing in the Indian Premier League and that Cricket Australia will monitor their progress and consistency as the World Cup draws near.
“While their bans will be finished on March 28, Steve and David have been working through rehabilitation from elbow surgery and it has been agreed the best pathway for them to return to play is in the Indian Premier League, a strong competition which features some of the world's best players. Starc’s injury has ruled him out of the Pakistan series and while frustrating for all involved, our focus is to have Mitch ready for the World Cup,” Hohns said.
The current Australian side, that is touring India for the five-match ODI series, has been retained for the Pakistan series as well. Aaron Finch, who has been struggling for runs, remains the captain while Nathan Lyon, Peter Handscomb and Ashton Turner also get a chance to display their mettle as the battle for the World Cup slots gain momentum.
Smith and Warner were banned for one year by Cricket Australia following the ball-tampering scandal which erupted during the Cape Town Test against South Africa. In this period, Smith and Warner have been playing in global Twenty20 leagues in Canada, West Indies and Bangladesh in addition to playing club cricket in Australia. Both Smith and Warner had their Bangladesh Premier League campaigns cut short due to an elbow injury. While Warner’s injury was not so severe, Smith had to undergo surgery and it sidelined him for six weeks.
According to a report in ESPNCricinfo, it is believed that Smith, Starc and Warner were part of the discussions which involved coach Justin Langer and the decision was taken that their international comeback would be delayed as they look to stay in top form ahead of the World Cup that begins in less than 90 days.