Australia Test captain Tim Paine on Monday (Jul 5) urged Steve Smith not to rush his comeback from injury to ensure he is fit for the Ashes, even it means missing the Twenty20 World Cup.
Smith is a crucial cog in Australia’s drive to retain the urn after their gripping 2019 series in England, where he was the standout performer on his return from a ban for ball-tampering.
Despite bearing the brunt of hostile English fans, he smashed an incredible 774 runs in four Tests, at an average of 110.57, including twin centuries on his Test return at Edgbaston.
But he is struggling with an elbow injury after changing his batting grip, ruling him out of Australia’s current limited-overs tour of the West Indies.
Smith stressed last week that Test cricket was his priority, and he was prepared to skip the T20 World Cup in October and November.
“What’s important for me is that he’s fit to go, whether that’s at the T20 World Cup or the Ashes,” Paine said on a Zoom call.
Obviously from a selfish point of view, I would love him to be 100 per cent fit and if that means he misses (the World Cup) then so be it.”
“But Steve is a professional, he’ll know where his body is at, and if he doesn’t feel like he’s right then he’ll make the right call,” he added.
“It’s important now that he takes the time to get it right, not just for the Ashes but to prolong his career for another four or five or six years.”
Australia will go into the England series having played just one Test, against Afghanistan, since last summer after calling off tours this year to Bangladesh and South Africa over COVID-19 concerns.
Ashes tickets went on sale on Monday, and many were snapped up, according to cricket.com.au, with Brisbane and Perth in particular doing a roaring trade.
The opening Test starts at the Gabba on Dec 8. The series then moves to Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney before concluding in Perth.
Venues are being sold to full capacity, with the exception of the Melbourne Cricket Ground which has an 85 per cent limit currently.
Whether the usual hordes of Barmy Army supporters will be able to travel to Australia, given current bans on international arrivals, remains to be seen.
Paine hopes that they can.
“Absolutely, I hope they do open up (the borders) because they bring a brilliant atmosphere,” he said of the English fans.
“The Barmy Army are a crucial part of the history of the Ashes and something the players love, whether they’re ripping into you or barracking for the English.
“It adds to the Test match, to the theatre, so fingers crossed those guys can get in.