By Sudipto Ganguly
(Reuters) - Australia test captain Tim Paine has backed Steve Smith's call to skip the Twenty20 World Cup if necessary to completely recover from an elbow injury for the team's Ashes defence against arch-rivals England starting in December.
Former captain Smith, Australia's batting mainstay, was ruled out of the team's limited-overs tour of the West Indies and Bangladesh with a left elbow injury and said last week that the five-test Ashes series is his primary focus.
"What's important for me is that he (Smith) is fit to go, whether that's at the T20 World Cup or for the Ashes," Paine told reporters on Monday in a Cricket Australia video conference to announce the sale of tickets for the international season.
"Obviously from a selfish point of view, I would love him to be one hundred per cent fit and if that means he misses that (T20 World Cup) tournament, then so be it.
"But I think Steve's a professional, he'll know where his body's at and if he doesn't feel like he's right then he'll make the right call."
The 2019 Ashes series in England ended in a 2-2 draw with the Australians holding on to the coveted urn having blanked their arch-rivals 4-0 when the five-match contest was last held Down Under.
The 32-year-old Smith, who is ranked second in the list of top test batsmen in the world, has a staggering record with the bat in one of the world's most high-profile cricket series.
He has hit eight hundreds and has scored close to 2,000 runs in 14 tests across the past three Ashes.
"He's the best player in the world and you take the best player of any side out, it creates a bit of a hole so fingers crossed his elbow comes good," wicketkeeper-batsman Paine said.
"He's been dealing with it for a while now and finds a way to get up, but as he gets older it probably gets a bit harder to keep pushing through it.
"So it's important now we've got the time (in the playing schedule) that he takes that time, and tries to get one hundred per cent right, not just for the Ashes but to try and prolong his career for another four, five, six years."
Australia will meet Afghanistan in a single test in late November before the first of the Ashes series begins on Dec. 8 in Brisbane.
The current ban on international arrivals in Australia due to the COVID-19 pandemic might bar England's Barmy Army supporter group from being present for the highly-anticipated contest.
Paine hopes the borders open up.
"There's nothing better than playing in front of crowds, and the Barmy Army certainly add to it," Paine said.
"It makes test cricket and the Ashes what it is, the Barmy Army are part of the history of the Ashes and it's something the players love, whether they're ripping into you or barracking for the English.
"It just adds to the Test match and adds to the theatre."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)