Justin Langer has termed Steven Smith the 'Virat Kohli of the Australian team' and can't wait to have him back from his year-long ban as he firmed up the possibility of him and David Warner being rushed in for the ODI series against Pakistan, which is now likely to begin shortly after the bans are completed.
ESPNcricinfo previously revealed that discussions over the schedule for the ODIs against Pakistan could see them pushed beyond the March 29 date, when the bans of Smith and Warner elapse. With two Tests still to play against India, followed by a one-day series and then two Tests against Sri Lanka, Langer was eager to avoid distractions but acknowledged that their comeback in that series was a possibility.
"There's potential, yeah. Definitely potential," Langer said. "That's part of the process. I'm sure we'll work through that and we'll get the best outcome for Australian cricket and for them personally. There's no decision made at this stage."
Langer has separately met with Warner and Smith in recent weeks, while Cameron Bancroft, whose nine-month ban ends on December 29, was seen catching up with members of the Australia squad during last week's Test in Perth.
Smith is now firmly back in the public spotlight following the airing of the TV commercial, done as part of his work with a mental health charity, which was followed by his first press conference in Australia since returning from South Africa.
"I think he's in a very determined place," Langer said. "Obviously it's been a really tough time for him, but we can't wait to have him back. He's the Virat Kohli of the Australian cricket team. That's the truth of it. He's an outstanding player, he's been our captain. He's a fantastic young bloke.
"I know how determined he is to get back and play for Australia. That makes me feel warm and fuzzy, knowing Steve Smith is determined."
If Smith and Warner were to play against Pakistan, it would mean them missing a chunk of their IPL contracts, with those Australian players selected for the World Cup also having to leave the tournament early. When Smith spoke at the SCG, he said he felt T20 cricket would be adequate preparation for the World Cup if that was all he was able to play.
"There's the PSL and the IPL, which I think is adequate preparation for the World Cup if I'm selected. The way the one-day game is played, it's almost an extended T20, so T20 cricket is a good way to prepare."
While Smith is making the clearest strides towards lifting his profile ahead of a comeback, Warner last month spoke briefly following a grade match at Coogee Oval, while Bancroft published a letter in the West Australian this week, where he opened up on his suspension ahead of a likely return in the BBL on December 30.
"You've probably read Cameron Bancroft's letter to himself. That was incredibly courageous, what he wrote," Langer said. "If you see how he's blossomed, it's unbelievable - and I've known him since he was very young. To see how he's gone from pretty much, you'd say a boy, into a man, from what's happened, that warms my heart as well.
"I know Davey Warner is the same. He would be training like Rocky Balboa at the moment. They're very determined to get back into the Australian cricket team. There's a process obviously, it's going to happen in the next little bit, but it's a pretty exciting time."