Australia bowlers considered boycotting Test unless David Warner was banned


Warner and Smith on Thursday completed the 12-month suspensions imposed by CA and are now free to continue their international careers.

Though Australia struggled for long periods without the superstar duo, the team has rebounded impressively in the past two months.

The one-day international series wins on the road against India and Pakistan have revived their hopes of defending their World Cup crown in England just months before the start of the showpiece event.

Despite the recent spike in Australia’s performances, Warner and Smith are expected to be named in the World Cup squad at the expense of a player who has contributed to the team’s form reversal.

The pair were reunited briefly with the ODI squad in the UAE earlier this month though senior players Tim Paine, Starc and Hazlewood were not present.

Roberts described the meeting as a “really positive step” in the reintegration process though he noted “a meeting in Dubai doesn’t mean everything is fixed”.

They are set to return to an Australian set-up that has changed markedly under the leadership of Test captain Tim Paine and limited-overs skipper Aaron Finch.

Roberts said he had been “really impressed” by the banned trio’s behaviour while serving their suspensions. Warner and Smith have been widely praised by their local clubs for their contributions on and off the field.

Bancroft, Roberts said, had personally apologised to CA’s receptionists who fielded hundreds of calls from disappointed fans last year.

While Smith and Bancroft created headlines with controversial interviews that overshadowed the start of the Boxing Day Test, Warner has limited his rare public comments to general cricket matters.

Roberts is confident Smith and Warner will not have a negative impact on team harmony when they return.

“What we’re focused on is doing everything we can to support Dave, Steve, Cameron and all the other players in support staff with this reintegration to build harmony rather than to disrupt the harmony that is building,” Roberts said at the Melbourne Press Club.

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“At the same time, let’s be open about it. At any workplace you don’t have to be best mates with everyone you work with.

“There needs to be a foundation of respect, absolutely. I think there’s growing respect there and we’ll continue to support players, with the right discussions, and work those through to continue building respect in those relationships.

“As to whether every player in the men’s team or women’s team is best mates with the rest of their teammates it’s not far different to any other workplace where we’ll have some very close friendships, some cordial relationships and some that are a bit more challenging.”

Roberts dismissed fears held by former CA director Mark Taylor that ball tampering may have been more widespread than what happened in Cape Town.

He defended CA’s investigation, which Taylor said should have probed deeper, as being “absolutely fit for purpose” and said there was no evidence to suggest other incidents despite “extended invitations” to the cricket community and wider public to report any issues.

“We’re not going to jump at shadows or speculation, we’ll deal with the facts,” Roberts said.

“All the evidence suggests that was the first time a foreign object such as that [sandpaper] had been used.

“We don’t have any suggestions from the ICC, match officials, broadcaster footage, players or player agents, CA staff, cricket fans – no one has made any allegations of any other inappropriate goings on.”

Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald

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.

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