SYDNEY – Steve Smith and David Warner's year-long exile has likely left them hungrier than ever and their return can spark Australia to World Cup glory, Test great Shane Warne said Wednesday.
The star pair's ban from state and international cricket for ball-tampering expires later this month and they are expected to be rushed back into the Australian side for the defence of their title at the showpiece tournament in England this year.
Both players have recently undergone elbow surgery and the great unknown is how they will perform back on the world stage, particularly in what is sure to be a hostile atmosphere in England.
But Warne has no doubt they will be as good as ever, benefiting from the break rather than their skills being blunted.
He is talking from experience.
Warne was suspended in 2003 for a year after testing positive to banned diuretic drugs.
Many wrote him off, but the leg-spinning legend quickly bounced back and enjoyed several more years playing at the highest level with the Australian team.
"Sometimes having an enforced lay off - like I'm used to, I had 12 months off myself - what that means is you become really fresh," he told Fox Sports.
"You freshen your mind up, you become hungry again and realise how important cricket is to you."
Warne said both players would also "have a point to prove" when they eventually pad up again.
"That's why I reckon Australia can win the World Cup," he said, despite the team's recent patchy one-day form.
"They'll walk straight back in, they'll be hungry. They'll be a bit nervous in the first few games but that'll be good for them, they'll be excited and I would expect them to play as good as they always have."
Newly-appointed assistant Australia coach Ricky Ponting echoed similar sentiments recently.
Both players are expected to feature at the upcoming Indian Premier League as they tune-up for the World Cup.
Smith only returned to the nets last week from surgery in January after being forced to drop out of the Bangladesh Premier League Twenty20 tournament with a ligament problem.
Warner's injury, sustained at the same event, was less serious and he could play his first game since then for his club side Randwick-Petersham this weekend.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)