Batting legend Ricky Ponting has backed Australian players to feature in the rescheduled Indian Premier League in the UAE, saying it would be an ideal preparation ahead of T20 World Cup in October.
The IPL will squeeze its remaining 76 games between September 19 and October 15 while the T20 World Cup will be held just after that from October 17 to November 14. Both tournaments will be held in the UAE.
"Those guys that haven't played for three or four months now, they need to get back into the groove of playing high-quality cricket against the best players in the world," Ponting was quoted by cricket.com.au as telling Australia Test captain Tim Paine in a conversation on SEN radio.
"No doubt it's their best preparation to be in those exact conditions, playing in probably the strongest domestic T20 tournament in the world," said Ponting, who will head to Dubai as head coach of IPL side Delhi Capitals.
Fast bowler Pat Cummins, who skipped the West Indies and Bangladesh tours to spend the time with his pregnant fiance, is not expected to return to the IPL with his first child due in the middle of the rescheduled tournament.
"For second half of this season it's going to be really tough to get over there," Cummins said in a vlog on his YouTube channel.
"We'll see how it plays out but at this stage it might be a bit too hard, but with the World Cup straight after that, I'm hoping to be good to go for that."
Australia captain Aaron Finch this week had surgery on his right knee to repair cartilage damage he suffered in the West Indies. While the surgery was a success, he faces a 10-week recovery period, which will leave him sidelined right up until Australia's opening match of the Super 12 stage of the World Cup.
Finch has previously said he believed a return to the IPL would be "hard to justify" for players who had skipped the winter tours citing the fatigue and toll of hotel quarantines and bio-secure bubbles.
Riley Meredith, Dan Christian, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Marsh, Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye and Josh Philippe were all part of the side that toured the Caribbean and Bangladesh, and all hold IPL deals.
Marsh and Philippe had opted out of the first stage of the IPL tournament that was held in India.
Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Lynn and Ben Cutting - none of whom are in Australia's plans or hold state contracts - are the other Australians with IPL contracts.
Australia's T20 side, which did not have a host of first-choice players, suffered 1-4 series defeats against West Indies and Bangladesh recently, and
Ponting said the results underlined the current lack of depth in Australian cricket.
The Australian side crashed to their lowest-ever T20I total of 62 against Bangladesh in Dhaka a few days ago.
"... whether it was a lack of confidence or a lack of skill or a lack of game awareness in the conditions. Just the lack of know-how and skill in those conditions brought us undone again.
"It's been the Achilles heel for Australian cricket for as long as I can remember. It just goes to show the depth around Australian cricket right now is not where it needs to be.
"The T20 World Cup is not far away (but) with everyone fit and healthy in the UAE, I still think the Australian team can push really hard to win that title that's eluded us," Ponting said.