Cricket Australia is bracing for another week and a half of uncertainty over the ball-tampering saga, with the shamed trio of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft all strongly considering bans ahead of an April 11 deadline.
CA has confirmed hearings over the level-three charges and/or sanctions issued to Smith, Warner and Bancroft will take place – if needed – on Wednesday week.
There remains a possibility the trio will cop their whack and CA will put a full stop to the ball-tampering saga that has already cost the governing body millions in sponsorship and affected TV rights negotiations.
However, that scenario is fading fast.
Warner is understood to be particularly keen to put his case to an independent code-of-conduct commissioner.
Smith and Bancroft have also sought legal advice and are mulling the merits of challenging their bans, which were for 12 months and nine months respectively.
The scandal is threatening to ignite another spat between CA and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA), whose chief executive Alistair Nicholson was on deck in South Africa to provide legal and welfare support.
“Justice which is rushed can sometimes be flawed,” ACA president Greg Dyer told ABC.
CA’s code of conduct dictates that players can accept sanctions at any point “prior to the commencement of the hearing”.
There is a sense among many in Australian cricket circles that the bans were too harsh given the International Cricket Council’s maximum punishment for ball tampering is a one-Test ban.
Some members of the Test XI playing in Johannesburg hold that view.
CA has made it clear its sanctions aren’t for ball tampering, rather conduct “contrary to the spirit of the game”, “unbecoming of a representative”, that “could be harmful to the interests of cricket and/or … brought the game of cricket into disrepute”.
There are concerns from the camps of Warner and Smith the star duo could miss out on lucrative national contracts for two years, meaning the effective punishment is more than what CA intended.
CA had finalised contracts for 2018-19 prior to the scandal but are now reshuffling the order, with captain Tim Paine set to earn a healthy pay rise upon his return to the list.
The CA code of conduct spells out that if a player disputes either a charge or sanction then there will be a hearing before a CA commissioner.
If players are unhappy with the verdict at the initial hearing, they have seven days to lodge a formal appeal and take the case to an appeals commissioner.
“If they do take that to appeal, that’s a good, proper legal process,” CA chief executive James Sutherland said last week.
“As a course of natural justice under our code, players have the right.”
Sutherland admitted a range of penalties, including some more and less severe, were discussed by CA’s board.
CA’s code of conduct notes that “any decision made by the appeals commissioner … shall be the full, final and complete disposition of the matter and will be binding on all parties”.