MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia's opening batsman Aaron Finch says he will welcome banned cricketers Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith and David Warner back to the team with "open arms."
The three players were suspended by Cricket Australia for their roles in the ball-tampering incident during Australia's test match against South Africa in Cape Town in March.
Bancroft's nine-month suspension ends this weekend, when he is expected to line up for the Perth Scorchers in a Twenty20 Big Bash League game against Sydney Thunder in Perth on Saturday.
Ex-test skipper Smith and his former national deputy Warner were given 12-month bans and have been playing grade cricket in Sydney.
However, recent interviews from Smith and Bancroft have heightened tensions within Australian cricket.
Bancroft said he "didn't know any better" and just wanted to fit in with the team as an inexperienced player after being asked by Warner to cheat, while Smith spoke about the intense pressure from Cricket Australia to win.
Former greats including ex-test skipper Ricky Ponting and former opening batsman Michael Slater have criticized Bancroft's television interview on Fox Sports.
Slater told Channel Seven he felt the relationship between Warner and Bancroft was now "untenable".
Smith and Bancroft were running media campaigns in a bid to "regain respect from the public," Slater said. Warner is yet to conduct any interviews.
"A couple of things that have come out of Steve (Smith) and now Bancroft. It makes it very hard for Dave Warner to come back into the team," Slater said.
Ponting told Channel Steven he was disappointed with Bancroft's comments.
"He's trying to rebuild his brand and I think some of the things he's had to say have actually done more damage to his brand than what had happened before," Ponting said.
Bancroft is a potential contender for Finch's opening position for next year's Ashes tour. Finch said he wished Bancroft every success.
Warner and Smith are expected to be strongly considered for the Ashes and World Cup in 2019. Cricket Australia's new chief executive Kevin Roberts says test captain Tim Paine and one-day skipper Finch will be consulted ahead of any decision to integrate the banned trio back into national squads.
"When Davey and Steve are ready to make their (comebacks), be allowed to come back and play cricket for Australia and their states, from my point of view they'll be welcomed back with open arms," Finch said on Thursday.
"Whatever's happened, has happened.
"The punishment has been dealt. They've been working really hard off the field to meet every criteria, and go above and beyond everything that has been asked of them, to come back and play international cricket again."
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports