Batting legend Steve Waugh feels that the Australian public would welcome tainted cricketers, Steve Smith and David Warner, with open arms but issues a caution that their return to national team won’t be as pleasing.
Smith and Warner are all set to feature in Sydney's Premier Cricket competition this weekend. This will be their first match in Australia following the disgraceful ball-tampering scandal in March.
"I think they'll still adore him. The Australian public, they are forgiving,” Waugh told Fox Sports News.
"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," he explained.
Cricket Australia had imposed a one-year ban on Smith and his deputy Warner for their roles in the ball-tampering plot against South Africa at Newlands earlier this year. Besides, rookie opener Cameron Bancroft, who exploited sandpaper in a bid to alter the conditions of the ball, was barred from international cricket for a period of 9-month.
While Smith will play for Sutherland at Glenn McGrath Oval on Saturday, Warner will line up for Randwick-Petersham in Coogee. Waugh believes both the cricketers will receive grand reception but pointed out their road back to the Australia team is not a smooth one.
"It's going to be a challenge for all of them to come back in to the fold. It's not going to be as easy as people think,” Waugh remarked.
"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," he elaborated.
Waugh, however, is confident that Smith, Warner and Bancroft have the willpower to overcome all the negative attention.
"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," Steve Waugh 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," he concluded.