England all-rounder Moeen Ali has asked fans to not be overly harsh on Steve Smith and David Warner at the upcoming 2019 World Cup. Smith and Warner are returning to international cricket after serving one-year bans for their part in the ball-tampering scandal that erupted during the Australia-South Africa Test series last year.
“I really hope they don’t get too much stick. I want them to enjoy the series. If you have to, keep it funny, not personal,” Ali told The Guardian.
“We all make mistakes. We are human beings and we have feelings. I know deep down they are probably really good people. I just hope they get treated decently. I just want the cricket to be spoken about,” he said.
When the ball-tampering scandal had broken out last year, Ali had said he did not feel any sympathy for Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft. He had said that it was hard to feel sorry for them because of their on-field attitude. He had also described the Australian team as the only team he disliked.
Both Smith and Warner have played three matches for an unofficial Australian XI team this year, but the last time they played an official ODI for Australia was in January 2018.
Both batsmen have been in imperious form recently. While Warner was the highest run-scorer of IPL 2019, scoring 692 runs in 12 matches at an average of 69.2 and a strike rate of 144, Smith registered scores of 22, 89* and 91* in the three matches for Australian XI this month.
With an Ashes battle scheduled immediately after the World Cup, passions are guaranteed to be even higher than usual when the Aussies land in England. When Australia’s World Cup jersey was unveiled earlier this month, Barmy Army, England’s famed fan group, wasted no time in editing Warner’s portrait so that the front of his shirt said ‘Cheats’ instead of ‘Australia’.
Australia begin their World Cup campaign with two warm-up matches – vs England on 25 May and vs Sri Lanka on 27 May – before playing their first match of the tournament against Afghanistan on June 1.