Australia’s two senior batsmen are back in the fold after serving bans for ball-tampering and could feature when Justin Langer’s side take on England in a warm-up match in Southampton on Saturday.
Langer anticipates a rough ride for his returning pair and has promised to “put an arm round them and make sure they’re okay”.
And that generosity of spirit has been echoed by England all-rounder Moeen, who has previously admitted it was “difficult to feel sorry” for the pair in the wake of the ‘Sandpapergate’ scandal in South Africa in 2018.
“I really hope they don’t get too much stick,” Moeen told the Guardian. “I want them to enjoy the series.
“If you have to, keep it funny, not personal. We all make mistakes. We are human beings and we have feelings. I know deep down they are probably really good people. I just hope they get treated decently. I just want the cricket to be spoken about.”
The reintegration of two thoroughbred batsmen with a combined aggregate of almost 8,000 one-day international runs this week led former captain Steve Waugh to suggest “every side will be wary of Australia” at the World Cup.
Langer did little to dampen expectations when he said Smith’s performance in the recent games against a New Zealand XI was “like watching Sachin Tendulkar bat”.
But the Aussie coach is wary of how the former leadership team might react to rough treatment from the stands.
“There’s not too many I’ve met in my life who like being booed or heckled or disliked so… they’re human beings,” Langer said. “We’re going to have to care for them, we’re going to have to put an arm around them and make sure they’re going okay.
“But what people say, whether it’s in the crowd or social media or wherever, there’s nothing they can do about that, they can’t control it. What we can do is keep an eye on them and make sure they’re going okay as people as much as cricketers.”