April 11 looms as the date when Cricket Australia (CA) will learn whether it faces a judicial stoush over suspensions handed down to the shamed trio of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.
Hearings over the level-three charges and/or sanctions issued to Smith, Warner and Bancroft are expected to 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, it 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 strongly considering challenging their bans, which were for 12 months and nine months respectively.
Australian Cricketers’ Association president Greg Dyer has questioned the length of the suspensions, and the way they were handed down.
“Justice which is rushed can sometimes be flawed, so let’s consider the relativity, let’s make sure we get perspective and proportionality into this conversation, and I think a little bit of time to allow that to occur has probably given us all a slightly different perspective on the events in Cape Town,” he said.
CA’s code of conduct dictates that players can accept sanctions at any point, “prior to the commencement of the hearing at the time/place specified in the notice of charge”, which is understood to be April 11.
The trio has been banned from international and domestic cricket, but encouraged to play club cricket.
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.
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 hold that view. Tim Paine is doing his best to lead a distraught group in the fourth Test against South Africa.
“You’ve got some of your best players not in the side, it’s just about people picking up the slack,” Paine told reporters after day three.
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”.
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, “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”.