Australian fast bowling great Mitchell Johnson has declared the bans on the three players involved in the ball tampering scandal should be upheld but a former teammate has a different take as debate continues to rage on whether the Cricket Australia board should cut the sanctions.
Steve Smith and David Warner were banned for a year and Cameron Bancroft for nine months as a result of the ball-scuffing fiasco in Cape Town in March.
A day after CA released its independent report into the cultural failings of the organisation, the Australian Cricketers' Association lodged a submission with CA to have the bans cut.
The ACA has argued the "win-without-counting-the-costs" mentality of CA, as outlined in the Longstaff report, contributed to the mentality behind the role the three players had in the tampering incident, with Bancroft ultimately using a yellow piece of sandpaper.
The seven-member CA board, led by interim chairman Earl Eddings but missing the recently departed David Peever and Mark Taylor, convened a hook-up on Monday and had several issues to discuss relating to the suspensions.
It's understood a final call has not been made and it could take another day or more to determine and then publically release an outcome of an issue that has split opinions at the highest level and among the cricketing public. It's believed there is no requirement for a final decision to go to a vote.
The manner in which the debate is held and then relayed to the various parties has also been seen as a guide to how what has been a largely hostile relationship between CA the ACA will unfold in wake of the Longstaff review, which called for both parties to begin to make peace after two years of hostilities.
The ACA board had hoped to meet with CA before the governing body deliberated but that did not eventuate. It's understood the ACA will be given the courtesy of being told the verdict before it is released publicly.
For Smith and Warner, in particular, it shapes as a nervous day or two. Even if there is a reduction, they won't be able to return to Test cricket immediately. However they could return to first-class cricket.
As revealed by Fairfax Media on Saturday, there is the argument Bancroft has served proportionally more time than Smith and Warner, and it would be unfair if the two NSW players returned at the same time as him. Bancroft's suspension, as it stands, ends on December 29, allowing him to also play in the majority of the Big Bash League, while Smith and Warner have to wait until March 29.
The ACA has suggested this could be alleviated by Bancroft returning to first-class cricket immediately, with Smith and Warner to rejoin when the Sheffield Shield resumes after the BBL hiatus in February.
Johnson took to Twitter to declare the bans should remain.
"I thought three players were banned. So does that mean Cameron Bancroft’s ban will be reduced to the same amount as Smith and Warner if it goes ahead? They all accepted their bans and didn’t contest it so I think the bans should stay," he said.
He later added: "OK, Bancroft plays out his full amount of the ban right. That’s means he has gone through the full process, so my question is why should it be any different for Smith and Warner? I’d like nothing more than seeing them scoring runs again, don’t get me wrong."
However, Test spinner Nathan Lyon said he would like to have the trio back.
"Always want to see them playing Shield cricket, I think the whole of Australia would like to see them playing Shield cricket," he said after guiding NSW to a 163-run victory over Queensland in Canberra.
"It’s up to the powers that be to make that decision, and no matter what decision they make, we’ll respect that.
"I actually think the way Steve and Davey are going about it, they’ve been absolutely incredible and what they’re doing for grade cricket in Sydney has been exceptional. I actually take my hat off to them."
Former Test paceman Damien Fleming has also called for the trio to be able to return to Shield cricket, declaring their presence "benefits Australian cricket more than the individuals".
State officials have raised the issue of whether it's competitively fair should the Blues be able to call on Warner and Smith, two of the world's premier batsmen, for even half of the Shield season. The Blues had been second-bottom on the Shield ladder before the latest round of matches. Their returns would perhaps also deny more opportunities for the next generation of talent emerging with the Blues.
Smith and Warner were not given state-based contracts this summer, and remuneration has been raised as an issue. But the pair would play for match payments and be upgraded to contracts like any player should they qualify.
Smith, Warner and Bancroft were consulted by the ACA about the union's push to have a re-hearing of their bans but the ACA insists the players did not lead the move. The players have focused on playing grade this summer.
An argument against their case is that the three players opted to not appeal their suspensions in March.
Public opinion has also been divided on whether the players should complete the bans that came after a CA investigation into a drama which plunged the sport into crisis.
At the time, Smith was the only player suspended under the International Cricket Council's laws, and that was for only one Test. Bancroft was fined and hit with demerit points while Warner escaped any censure.
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.