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13 Nov 2019, Edition - 1583, Wednesday

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Shane Warne says revitalised Australia can pull off World Cup shock

The Guardian

A week after Australia completed a dramatic series victory in India by winning their last three matches, ending a dismal run of 22 defeats in 26 completed one-day internationals, Shane Warne believes the team are once again striking fear into opponents and can be spurred to World Cup glory by the reintegration of David Warner and Steve Smith.

Warner and Smith’s 12-month bans for ball-tampering come to an end this month and they will be free to join up with the rest of the World Cup squad when they get together for a training camp in April.

“I think Australia have just started to believe they can win again and I think other teams are now saying, ‘Hang on, Australia might have just found something,’” Warne said.

“Suddenly there is a bit of fear again about playing Australia. I think no one has feared Australia in any format over the last 12 months. They always thought they could beat them but now there is a bit of worry.

“To win a World Cup you have to get together, create a sense of fun and you start to get on a bit of a roll together. The reintegration of Smith and Warner should be fun rather than cagey. It should be fun for those guys to get together.

“Smith and Warner are going to be hungry, determined and excited to be back playing rather than worrying about answering questions. I think they’ll just be excited to get out and play and they’ll be determined to show how much they’ve missed the game and how good they are, and that could rub off on the team and take the team with them. I don’t think there will be any issue with Smith and Warner coming back.”

Having played in six of the past eight World Cup finals, including the most recent in 2015, which they won, Australia are unused to simply making up the numbers. They are third favourites for the competition, behind the hosts and the ICC’s top-ranked side, England and India respectively.

“Australia have been pretty ordinary for the last 12 months, I think they’ve played poorly,” Warne said. “But Australia perform really well in big tournaments. You add Smith and Warner back into that side and they’re going to give it a shake.

“England have so many match-winners. I love the style of cricket they play. They’re very well led by Eoin Morgan, and this is the best chance they’ve have had in recent times. India – anyone with Virat Kohli in their side has to be in with a chance, and their bowling attack is very good. So those two go in as favourites, Australia will be there as well, and I think the fourth [semi-final] spot literally could be any one of the other sides.”

Warne may be convinced Warner and Smith can flourish at the World Cup but he is also certain they will have to withstand constant abuse from the English crowds. “I’d be disappointed if the fans didn’t give it to them. They’re going to absolutely give it to them,” he said.

“Even if they hadn’t been out for a year, they were still going to get nailed by the crowd, the same as the Aussies give it to England when they go to Australia. They’re completely expecting it.”

Warne remains involved with the Rajasthan Royals, the Indian Premier League side with whom he won the inaugural competition in 2008 and is now a global ambassador. This year’s tournament, which starts this weekend, has once again attracted an all-star cast of the world’s greatest talent, and Warne believes the competition offers players an unbeatable chance to improve their technique.

“The IPL is the best learning place for any cricketer,” the 49-year-old said. “All countries are playing together and there’s so much downtime that you share knowledge and just talk about the game. It might be how you bowl at a particular batsman, or what do you look for facing Rashid Khan? You might start picking him because you’ve spoken to a certain player from another country.”

Jos Buttler is a perfect example of the transformative potential of the IPL. The Englishman, who is returning to the Royals for a second year, spoke earlier this week about how his conversations with Warne in India inspired his return to the Test team in 2018. “I always knew how good Jos was, but I don’t think he realised how good he was,” Warne said. “I was getting him to believe how good he was. I wasn’t just a leader of the group trying to pump someone’s tyres up to make them play well and give them confidence. It was genuine.

“I think he should be playing Test cricket because I think he’s too good not to be. To see him play the way he did in the IPL then come back to Test cricket and do so well was very pleasing. I’m not saying it was me, I’m saying it was great to see him do it after those conversations. That’s satisfying.”

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