Banished Australian leaders Steven Smith and David Warner are expected to push for a relaxation of their Cricket Australia bans to allow them to play domestic cricket both at home and abroad, as they and Cameron Bancroft continue to deliberate on whether or not to take up the option of formal hearings under the board’s code of conduct.
When announcing the bans being offered to the players, CA had specified that they covered “international and domestic cricket”. They were additional to the one-Test ban already imposed on Smith by the ICC, in addition to a fine for Bancroft.
The chief executive James Sutherland stated the penalties were devised to “balance between the need to protect the integrity and reputation of the game and the need to maintain the possibility of redemption for the individuals involved”. However, the advisors to Smith, Warner and Bancroft – all three have retained legal counsel in addition to their respective managers Warren Craig, James Henderson and Trent Ovens – are believed to be determined that the scope of the bans is too wide, given that the offences took place when playing for Australia, and that two players had already been penalised by the ICC.
Additionally, they believe that not being able to play first-class cricket over the next 12 months is likely to hamper the trio’s ability to press for Australian selection when their bans lapse. Smith and Warner would not be eligible until the end of next year’s Sheffield Shield competition, while Bancroft would be ruled out until after Christmas 2018.
There is a precedent for banned Australian players being permitted to play first-class cricket while stood down from international duty. Members of Kim Hughes’ rebel Australian team who toured apartheid-era South Africa in 1985-86 and 1986-87 were banned from playing for Australia for a year on their return, but were able to play domestic matches. With the benefit of that ruling, the swing bowler Terry Alderman, paceman Carl Rackemann and the legspinner Trevor Hohns – now the chairman of selectors – were all able to make returns to the Test team from the 1988-89 season onwards.
International implications for the ban are also a significant factor. While the code of conduct ban only applies specifically to Australian cricket, all players were swiftly cast out of overseas contracts on the day their sanctions were announced. Smith and Warner were kicked out of this year’s IPL and Bancroft from a contract to play the English county season with Somerset.
At the time the bans were announced, Sutherland said CA did not have jurisdiction over whether the players would be allowed to play overseas. “Under the code we didn’t have any clear authority over domestic matches played overseas,” he said. “It was talked about but we ascertained based on the legal advice that we didn’t have that clear authority.
“What we’ve done is we’ve dealt with the matters within our control. We have made an assessment and I think we all know here that there are extreme views around this in terms of what the penalties are. And not only extreme one end to the other but up and down the line as well. What we have done is try to over a number of meeting, the directors have gone into great detail to consider all of the evidence at hand and try to find the right balance for the circumstances.
“It was a really significant offence, it’s done immeasurable damage to the game and the reputation to the game in Australia and perhaps more broadly. And we believe in difficult circumstances we’ve found a landing spot that is fair after offering a proper process of investigation.”
In arriving at these sanctions, CA stated that the players would be permitted only to play club cricket. “All three players will be permitted to play club cricket and will be encouraged to do so to maintain links with the cricket community,” the board said in a statement. “In addition, all three players will be required to undertake 100 hours of voluntary service in community cricket.”
Uncertainty has also arisen about the time Smith, Warner and Bancroft have to decide whether or not to take their matters to hearings. While CA advised that Smith, Warner and Bancroft had seven days from the moment of formally receiving their charges to respond, the charge notes sent to all three players specified April 11 in Melbourne as the date and location for any hearing or hearings. Under the code, no specific requirement is given as to when a player must tell the head of integrity Iain Roy of their response to the notice of charge, other than “prior to the commencement of the hearing”.