IPL return crucial for Aussie T20 campaign

Steve Smith and David Warner have linked up with their Indian Premier League franchises, with both batsmen keen for a hit after a winter spent in lockdown.

STEVE SMITH of Australia celebrates after reaching his double century of the 2nd Investec Ashes Test match at Lord's Cricket Ground.
STEVE SMITH of Australia celebrates after reaching his double century of the 2nd Investec Ashes Test match at Lord's Cricket Ground. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Indian Premier League coaches Ricky Ponting and Trevor Bayliss loom as two of the most influential men in Australia's preparations for the Twenty20 World Cup.

Ponting, Bayliss, Steve Smith and David Warner are among the Australians to have landed in the UAE for the second phase of this year's IPL, which resumes on September 19.

Ponting is mentoring Delhi Capitals, meaning he will oversee Smith's return from the elbow injury that forced him to miss Australia's loss-laden T20 series against West Indies and Bangladesh.

Bayliss is in charge of Sunrisers Hyderabad, who earlier this year sensationally replaced Warner as captain and axed him from the XI.

Justin Langer, having weathered player discontent to ensure he is at the helm of Australia's bid to claim the one major piece of silverware they have never won, will take a keen interest in every World Cup squad member taking part in the IPL.

But that is particularly true for Warner, who skipped Australia's recent limited-overs tour to spend time with his family, and Smith.

Both Sydneysiders have spent the winter in lockdown, training with NSW teammates under strict biosecurity rules.

Smith's fitness and form will be monitored closely in coming weeks after early fears he may need to miss the World Cup to ensure he is cherry ripe for the Ashes.

Smith, who was initially left out of Delhi's XI at the start of this year's IPL before scoring 104 runs from five innings, will be keen to shake off the rust.

Warner's hopes of a hit before this year's World Cup, which is also being staged in the UAE, rest with Bayliss and Sunrisers director of cricket Tom Moody.

The hard-hitting opener's stunning demotion, which quickly become a historical footnote as India's escalating COVID-19 crisis broke through the IPL's biosecurity bubble, came after a frustrating home summer spent largely recovering from a groin injury.

Fellow World Cup squad members Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis will return via the IPL after resting from Australia's winter tour, while Kane Richardson, Pat Cummins, Adam Zampa opted to remain at home.

Cricket Australia (CA) is in talks with counterparts regarding World Cup warm-up fixtures but the leading option, to play a tri-series involving Afghanistan and West Indies, is now unlikely.

CA initially had reservations about releasing players for the second phase of the IPL but later agreed, especially given interstate border closures, that it would be an ideal World Cup tune-up.

"Those guys that haven't played for three or four months now, they need to get back into the groove of playing high-quality cricket against the best players in the world," Ponting said last month.

"It's their best preparation."