Brett Lee: Steve Smith and David Warner's experience can help Australia win 2019 Cricket World Cup

Bowler who was part of 2003 winning side backs inclusion of pair despite ball-tampering scandal

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Brett Lee, former Australian fast bowler at Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium. Khushnum Bhandari for The National
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The presence of Steve Smith and David Warner back in the national team set-up following suspension will strengthen Australia for their title defence of the World Cup in England.

That is the view of former Australia fast bowler Brett Lee who has backed the pair's involvement despite their role in a scandal that rocked the sport last year.

Smith and Warner lost their respective captain and vice-captain roles and were banned by Cricket Australia for 12 months for their roles in the ball-tampering incident in Cape Town during the third Test with South Africa.

Their bans ended on March 28 and both players were included in the squad for the tournament in England and Wales after showing good form in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

“Of course they strengthen the side,” Lee, 42, said yesterday at the Zayed Cricket stadium during the inaugural Happiness Sim Cricket Sixes tournament of the Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation for which he is an ambassador.

“It’s not just their batting. They are natural leaders even if they won’t be in the leadership group. They would be playing a second tier leadership role, which will be so valuable to their teammates because of their experience.”

Lee said the incident that took both Warner and Smith out of action should be left in the past now the suspensions have been served.

“I would like to look at the fact what’s happened has happened,” he said. “They have been dealt with, and we all move on. They are playing cricket with freedom now, and Warner, in particular, has been in sublime form.

“I haven’t seen him so hungry for runs. You look at in his eyes and you can see that passion.

“Smith is a bit behind Warner in terms of fitness as he’s still recovering from his elbow but he’s coming through at the right time, and had a couple of nice innings at the back end of the IPL.”

Warner, playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad, tops the IPL run chart on 692 at an average of 69.20.

“Unfortunately, they have to live with the ball tampering incident for the rest of their lives, which is a sad thought for two wonderful cricketers,” Lee said. “Everyone makes mistakes and unfortunately for them it’s in the public eye.”

Lee was quietly confident of Australia’s chances of stretching their record in the World Cup to six victories, and making it five from the past six tournaments, when the 12th edition of the ICC event gets under way on May 30.

“It may seem like cliché but anyone in the World Cup line-up definitely have a chance,” he said when asked of Australia’s chances.

“Yes, there’ll be favourites and teams that could do better, but personally I think Australia has a good chance.

“To me, it comes down to the top four or five batsmen and death bowlers. I have a saying that I believe batsmen win matches but the bowlers win tournaments.”

2 Jan 2000:  Brett Lee of Australia celebrates the wicket of Agit Agarkar of India caught by Mark Waugh first ball for nought. This was the fourth innings in succession that Agarkar was dismissed first ball during  the first days play of the Third Test match between Australia and India at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, Australia. Mandatory Credit: Adam Pretty/ALLSPORT

Lee, who was part of the 2003 winning side, said the Australian attack has got some really good firepower up front and it’s crucial to take wickets in the first 10 overs which can make inroads and get into the middle order quickly

“As a bowler myself, early wickets stem the flow of runs. It’s not rocket science,” Lee added.

Lee, who has taken 310 Test and 380 ODI wickets, singled out paceman Pat Cummins to come out as the strike bowler for Australia in the World Cup.

“Give him the new ball and he’s a different bowler,” he said. “The first 10 overs would be crucial and then spin through the middle. The death bowlers will be the key, depending on the game they play.”

Soon after the World Cup for Australia is the Ashes Series with England in August.

“I’d like to think we are quietly confident of winning the Ashes,” Lee said with the Australians looking to triumph in a series on English soil for the first time in 18 years.

Lee who was part of the 2001 side, the last one to win in England, said he had enjoyed his matches over there and expected a good series between the two sides.

“They will have the home conditions and a wonderful support from the Barmy Army, which I think it’s fantastic. I loved them and embraced them in the latter stages of my career," he added.

“It’s going to be a tough tour for the Aussies, that means hard work. But I think they have a good side.”

Australia will face Afghanistan on 1 June in Bristol in their opening World Cup game.