Disgraced Australian cricket duo David Warner and Steve Smith are set to make their return to the national side against New Zealand.
The pair – banned from international cricket for a year after their involvement in the infamous ball-tampering scandal – are free to play the final two games of next month's five-match ODI series in the UAE, where Australia face Pakistan on March 29 and 31.
However, Smith is highly unlikely to have recovered from an elbow injury in time, and Warner is set to be overlooked by the selectors.
That means that Brisbane – where Australia will play the Black Caps in several World Cup warm-up matches – shapes to be the most likely scene of the formal reintegration of the former Australian captain and vice-captain.
The pair – both having to recover from elbow surgery – are set to make their returns on the world cricket stage in the Indian Premier League, before pulling on the baggy green again in early May.
That would be as part of Australia's World Cup squad, for a pre-tournament training camp in Brisbane that will include some practice games against New Zealand. Such a scenario would allow Australia to manage every step of the reintegration process in a controlled environment at the Allan Border Field training base.
Coach Justin Langer recently indicated his team would be "crazy not to" call on the services of Smith and Warner in the 50-over tournament, while Pat Cummins suggested earlier this week that their return will be seamless.
There were strong arguments for bringing the pair back as soon as possible, which would have given players a chance to heal strained relationships long before turning their attention to the World Cup camp.
But logistics and other factors counted against Warner, who would have been unable to train with teammates until his suspension expired.
For the Black Caps, getting to play against a full-strength Australian side boosted by the return of Smith and Warner would provide some much-needed tough competition ahead of the World Cup. Wednesday's third ODI against Bangladesh is their last ODI before the Cup, with players instead having to go back to domestic four-day cricket, or the Indian Premier League, as part of their World Cup build-up.
However, by playing against Australia, they should be able to re-find their ODI touch before heading over to England, where they play India and the West Indies in warm-up games the week before the tournament.
- with news.com.au