New NSW Blues coach Phil Jaques says he welcomes banned batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner into Moore Park and will help them prepare for their professional cricket comeback.
Jaques was today announced as Blues coach for the next three years and was asked about how he will look to integrate Smith and Warner, who are serving out a 12-month ban for their involvement in the Cape Town ball-tampering incident.
“They’ve both been fantastic players for NSW over the last 10 years,” Jaques said at the SCG today.
“They’ve been involved in the organization, they’re great professionals, they’ve made a mistake and paid the price for that.
“But we’ll be looking with Cricket Australia about how we can integrate them back into first-class cricket when the time is right and obviously get them back to playing for Australia hopefully down in the future.”
He added: “We’ll be trying to prepare them for whatever cricket they’ve got coming up.
“I know they’re going to be playing some club cricket which will be fantastic for the system as a whole in the state and it would be just great to see them with cricket bats in their hand playing the game that they love.”
While their bans are in their infancy, Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft – who was suspended for nine months – will back in action sooner rather than later.
Smith will feature in next month’s Global T20 Canada League in Toronto, with Warner expected to enter the player draft for the tournament that will be held this week.
Following the competition in Canada, Warner and Bancroft will play in Darwin’s limited-overs Strike League in July.
Bancroft has committed to the month-long tournament while Warner will play two one-day matches on July 21 and 22.
Once those commitments are done, Smith and Warner could potentially join NSW in their pre-season training, which starts next Monday.
The experience of the Australia’s premier batsmen could prove invaluable to a Blues squad brimming with youth.
NSW upgraded five rookies to full contracts for the upcoming summer with 10 players in the 24-man squad under the age of 25.
The reboot at Moore Park will be helmed by Jaques, who found himself in a similar position when he took over the reins at Queensland three years ago.
In two season with the Bulls, Jaques nurtured a promising cop of batsmen into first-class regulars who went on to win the JLT Sheffield Shield title this summer gone.
Now Jaques has the same opportunity with the Blues, and while the Cricket NSW hierarchy accepts a young squad will be inconsistent, the former Test opener just want to see his charges develop into better players.
“‘Improvement’ is the big word,” Jaques said. “Continuous improvement.
“I think as long as the players are coming to work to work 100 per cent, 100 per cent effort every time they come to work, there is attention to detail about what they’re trying to do and a level of professionalism that’s expected of a NSW player.
“As long as they’re trying to improve and get better I think we’ll get to where we need to get to.
“Obviously, performances will need to warrant (selection). We don’t just give away caps either.
“But there is a strong push to push these guys through and make sure they’re on the right path to developing as good NSW players and hopefully future Australian players.
“We’ll be trying to give them opportunities at the level they’re deserving of and hopefully the performances will warrant them pushing through sooner rather than later.”