The fight to have the suspensions of the three men implicated in the ball-tampering scandal lifted has intensified, with the Australian Cricketers Association lodging a submission with Cricket Australia and calling for a face-to-face hearing.
Amid the fall-out from David Peever's resignation as CA chairman, it largely went unnoticed that the players' union had acted on its call to have Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft return immediately to the game.
In an extensive submission, the ACA has rejected CA's claim that it does not have the power to convene a hearing and overturn the bans. The ACA argues that as it was the CA board that imposed the ban, then CA could revoke the suspensions. The ACA does not want the charges the three men faced revoked, rather it's the length of the bans which are seen as disproportionate to what they would have been for scuffing the ball should the charges have come under the International Cricket Council's new rules.
However, CA points out the players were charged by CA under article 2.3.5 for bringing the game into disrepute – not for specific ball tampering. They were charged with actions that were contrary to the spirit of the game; were unbecoming of a representative or official; is or could be harmful to the interests of cricket; and/or did bring the game of cricket into disrepute.
CA argues the year-long bans for Smith and Warner have precedent when it comes to dealing with disrepute charges.
The ACA also argues CA has an obligation on behalf of its "employees" – the players – to re-examine the issue, in light of the "new" findings of the Longstaff report which found head office had contributed to the desperate culture prompting the players to seek victory in an illegal manner.
However, CA argues that the opinions published in the Longstaff report were just that – opinions – and were not definitive fact. It has also been pointed out the report did not recommend the suspensions be lifted.
That the three men opted not to immediately appeal against their bans in March, having taken legal advice at the time, has also been interpreted as a reason the bans should remain. CA chief executive Kevin Roberts has suggested the bans will not be cut.
Bancroft, given a nine-month sentence, is due back on December 29, and is understood to be content to bide his time.
Another issue to consider is the mood of fellow players and the general public. Fast bowler Peter Siddle is one of several players who believes the suspensions should be upheld, while interim CA chairman Earl Eddings has acknowledged the governing body has much work to do to regain the trust of the public. State officials have questioned whether that would be enhanced by slashing the bans.
The submission comes as ACA president Greg Dyer faces public scrutiny for his role in the ugly mess the sport has found itself in.
Dyer, the former Australian gloveman, said this week he had not enjoyed the manner in which the Australian team had conducted itself in recent years but it had not been his place to raise concerns.
The ACA insisted on Friday that Dyer had no intention of stepping aside.
With Peever gone, joining chief executive James Sutherland, coach Darren Lehman and the suspended players as casualties, only high-performance chief Pat Howard remains of the key public figures, although there has been considerable change in other important posts.
CA has reaffirmed that Howard has no intention of quitting, and will see out his contract, which expires after next year's World Cup and Ashes series in England.
Howard's role was heavily scrutinised in the Longstaff report. The high-performance unit is being reviewed, while the Ethics Centre review recommended anyone in the unit not be involved in future industrial negotiations – as Howard has been.
Former Australian wicketkeeper Ian Healy said CA had got Howard's standing in the game wrong.
“The major position theyve got to get right or closer to right is the high-performance director — the man whos responsible for performing cricketers around the country,” Healy said on Fox Sports.
“I think Pat Howard was positioned wrongly, above our greatest experts. We had a non-cricketer who had reports from the chairman of selections, the Australian coach, the Australian captain — hes got to be underneath them if its a non-cricketer. Our high-performance director should be under the experts in those positions.”
Jon Pierik is a sports writer with The Age, focusing primarily on AFL football, cricket and basketball. He has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.