Australian cricket players Steve Smith and David Warner have completed their suspensions following last year’s ball-tampering scandal that rocked the international game.
Former Aussie captain Smith, 29, and ex-vice skipper Warner, 32, were handed 12-month bans while Cameron Bancroft, 26, received a nine-month suspension after sandpaper was allegedly used on the ball during the Test match against South Africa in Cape Town in March 2018.
While the suspensions are now over for the three players, the implications and debate regarding the ball-tampering scandal has not finished.
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With the trio now free to play all forms of cricket and with the ICC World Cup and Ashes series coming up this year the Cricket Australia bosses, selectors and head coach Justin Langer have some big decisions to make.
‘A good challenge to have’
The BBC reports that Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts has said that the returns of Smith and Warner “will not disrupt the Australia team”.
With the World Cup and Ashes on the horizon, Roberts said in a statement: “I don’t want to sound flippant. But if you take the names out of it, and you have an Australia one-day team with fantastic momentum that might just surprise everyone in England [at the World Cup].
“And you’ve still got two players who are eligible to return to that team – one of whom is a once-in-a-lifetime player, and one of whom is a once-in-every-decade-or-two player – what a good challenge to have.
“We’re committed to ensuring that harmony continues to build, rather than it be impacted, so hence our efforts in the background to support Steve and Dave to be ready to be eligible for selection. And also supporting all the players in the team, and Justin [Langer], who have done such a brilliant job of re-connecting with the public.
“So I’m not particularly concerned about that, with Justin and the leadership of the Test team and the white-ball team - they’ve spent a long time together, a lot of time on the road.”
Foundation of respect
Roberts said that the focus now is on integration and to support all parties involved - the returning players, the current squad and the coaching staff. He says discussions will take place within the camp and a “foundation of respect” needs to be built.
Roberts added: “I guess what we’re really focused on is doing everything we can to support Dave, Steve, Cameron and all of the other players and support staff with this integration – to build harmony, rather than to disrupt the harmony that is building.
“At the same time, in any workplace, we don’t need to be best mates with anyone that we work with. There needs to be a foundation of respect, and I think there is growing respect there and we’ll continue to support the players with the right discussions and to work through those.”
Writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, Darren Kane asks the question: do Warner and Smith automatically deserve a second chance?
Kane says: “The easy answer is ‘yes’, of course they do. Each has served a hastily-imposed, undeniably grievous 12-month ban from international cricket for breaching Cricket Australia’s Code of Conduct.
“Specifically, for being guilty of conduct which was contrary to the spirit of cricket; unbecoming; harmful to the interests of cricket; and likely to bring the cricket into disrepute.
“Warner and Smith deserved their day in court. Nobody died; nobody got hurt. IT WAS SANDPAPER, for goodness’ sake. Athletes in other sports do worse things, sometimes on a daily basis.”
Duo to miss out on World Cup squad?
Even with Smith and Warner now free to return to international cricket, current Australia limited overs captain Aaron Finch says it will be “bloody hard” to decide if they will be included in the 15-man squad for the World Cup starting in May.
Australia’s one-day side are on a six-match winning run and on Wednesday they took a 3-0 lead against Pakistan in the five-match series.
Speaking to Sky Sports Finch said: “It is bloody hard. Especially when the side is playing so well, it’s going to be difficult. No matter who it is.
“At the end of the day... it’s an incredibly tough decision. Whatever balance you go with in that 15-man squad, there’s going to be some very unlucky blokes out there.”
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