Aussie cricket great Steve Waugh has spoken out about David Warner and Steve Smith ahead of their return to Sydney grade cricket this weekend.
Waugh says he expects the Australian public to welcome the suspended players back with open arms, but reckons their road back to the national side might not be as smooth.
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Smith will play for Sutherland at Glenn McGrath Oval on Saturday, while Warner will turn out for Randwick-Petersham in Coogee.
“I think they’ll still adore (Smith),” Waugh told Fox Sports News on Tuesday. “The Australian public, they are forgiving.
“He made a mistake and he’s paid a heavy price for it. But if he gets back out there and plays with the same enthusiasm and passion – he loves playing cricket, he loves scoring runs, he wants to get back playing for Australia – I think Australians will move past what happened before.
“They obviously remember it, but they’re big enough to realise you can make a mistake and grow from that and be stronger.
“We need him back in Australian cricket. You can’t lose someone of his quality overnight and expect to replace it and he’s still only relatively young.”
However Waugh warned of the challenges facing Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft after they were banned for their roles in the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal.
“It’s going to be a challenge for all of them to come back in to the fold,” Waugh said. “It’s not going to be as easy as people think.
“You’re out of the game 12 months, the game does move on, you lose that aura of invincibility about you a bit, you become a bit more fragile, maybe a bit of self-doubt creeping in.
“It’s going to be a real challenge for all three of those players to come back strong.”
Waugh also backed the boys to overcome the negative stigma that will be connected to their names for the rest of their lives.
“That’s another thing these boys are going to have to cope with – they’re going to have to be prepared for every day of their lives someone is going to mention it,” he said.
“Whether it’s right or wrong it’s going to happen.
“If you can’t handle that situation and move on from that it’s going to be difficult.
“It can be cruel, unfair down the track but I think they’re strong enough and have good support people around them to overcome that.”