Heavyweights collide as Smith-Warner square off in club cricket classic
Mike Whitney can't remember anything like it in his 18 years as president of Randwick Petersham Cricket Club. And he doesn't think it will ever happen again, such are the peculiar circumstances that conceived the occasion.
Best poke your head into Coogee Oval on Saturday, in that case, as David Warner (Randwick Petersham) and Steve Smith (Sutherland), plus a very handy supporting cast, clash in a 50-over match that could see more than 2000 fans at the ground. On average, Whitney said, they would be lucky to get 50.
The downside of the Cape Town saga has been blindingly obvious; Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft were banished from the top echelons of the game and Cricket Australia has been decimated by the damning review into their cultural standards, or lack thereof.
But the presence of Smith and Warner in Sydney grade cricket has been a welcome shot of vitality for the lower tiers of cricket, which rarely see the likes of Warner and Smith, who have both found a way to embrace the upside of their exile.
"I cant remember two current players that have been captain and vice-captain of their country, still playing the game, and playing in a grade cricket match at a suburban ground. Throw in Watto (Sutherland's Shane Watson) as well. It just doesnt happen these days. It may never happen again in Sydney grade cricket," Whitney said.
"Its got a great feeling about it and out of the negative of Cape Town … which has been phenomenal, look at the carnage that has created … the positive has having these blokes back in grade cricket.
"I cant talk for Steve Smith but I can imagine hes been doing exactly the same as Dave has been doing for us, which has been amazing. Just the people turning up at the ground, the buzz around training. Hes playing great … hes averaging 100. Hes finding the boundary, dont worry about that."
For the former Test players, it will be somewhat of a lost summer. While those in the baggy green engage in red ball contests with the touring Indians and Sri Lankans, Smith and Warner will be campaigning at small grounds for much smaller stakes.
For those playing alongside them, however, it will be a summer they will never forget.
"Our young players in first grade have been mesmerised that a player of his [Warner's] calibre is sitting in the dressing-room and hes been fantastic," Whitney said.
"Theyll never, ever, ever forget this summer. They are still two of the best players in the world and we are going to see them at Coogee Oval.
"People ask me all the time about David – I cant say anything more than hes been a model citizen for Randwick Petersham. Prior to this, he wouldnt have played more than a handful of games for us over five or six years."
For Warner, the match against Sutherland and his old skipper Smith will be provide a welcome buzz in what will be an otherwise low-key summer. Whitney said the club was making sure he remained in a good head space, with Warner in regular touch with the club's operations manger Bill Anderson.
"[Anderson] is very close to David and talks to him regularly. I dont annoy the players too much, David has enough on his plate without the president of the club ringing him three times a week," he said.
"But if there is a drama, I send him a text right away. Hes one of our players and we have a duty of care. We dont treat him any differently to anyone else at the club.
"They know they made a huge error in judgment but they are paying for it. The good side is theyve been able to come back to club cricket. Ive been the president for 18 years and Ive never know anything like this."
The match starts at 10am. It's free.