‘Let them play’: Cricket civil war set to explode
THE Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) has responded to the damning cultural reviews released by Cricket Australia (CA) on Monday, imploring the governing body to show leniency towards Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.
ACA president Greg Dyer and chief executive Alistair Nicholson fronted the press on Tuesday to call for the trio to have their bans for ball tampering overruled. Dyer simply said: "Let them play."
The Longstaff review paints a damning picture of the Cricket Australia culture and the impact it had on the way the Australian cricket team conducted itself on the field.
It also found the Cricket Australia culture to be "arrogant" and "dictatorial" and also accused the governing body of "bullying" in a 145-page document released on Monday.
Also included in the findings was an acknowledgment the players weren't the only ones at fault for the ball tampering controversy in South Africa, placing part of the blame on the toxic culture emanating from head office.
Dyer said that should convince decision makers to immediately lift the bans on the three stars. Warner and Smith were suspended from state and international cricket for 12 months and Bancroft was rubbed out for nine.
"My message to Cricket Australia is a simple one. These contrite men have been punished enough. Let them play," Dyer said.
"Yes, this was a moment of madness but now there is evidence and independent verification of system failure as well. We believe this is hugely significant.
"With this new information, common sense, common decency, basic fairness, proportionality - which we've talked about from the outset - and natural justice demand that the punishment is reduced.
"I add that the ACA will be relentless."
Dyer and Nicholson said the "new evidence" presented by the review that the players weren't the only ones at fault should force CA's hand and pave the way for Smith and Co. to return to the field.
He said the players have been forced to cop "100 per cent" of the culpability over the cheating affair and that's "not fair".
CA chairman David Peever and new CEO Kevin Roberts have categorically denied there is any chance of the trio having their bans reduced, setting the scene for a fiery civil war with the ACA.
Dyer and Nicholson refused to speculate on what course of action it would take if CA rejected calls for Smith, Warner and Bancroft to return to action.
Dyer said the initiative to campaign for the stars' return is being driven by the ACA and not the players. He also said he's "never seen a report that is as harsh in its commentary" as the Longstaff review is of CA.
"It details a corporate culture which is as bad as I've seen in 30 years in the corporate world," he said.
Only 48 of the 150 current male and female players who were sent the cultural survey completed it and only nine former players did the same.
Asked why so few players took part, Nicholson said some may have given their feedback to the ACA, who then contributed to the review, rather than address the survey directly. He also said some players may have been fearful about giving negative feedback - which the review indicated was another problematic feature of Australian cricket culture.
"They gave us a lot of feedback around that and that came through the overall Longstaff report," Nicholson said. "There's indications in there that negative feedback is not well taken and they referred it to us."
The astonishing lack of responses to surveys issued to players may simply have been a silent protest into the administrations intervention into the Aussie cricket team's dressing room. If so, it has had the exact opposite effect, according to veteran cricket journalist Robert Craddock.
He said the failure of the current players to mount a case in support of banned captain Steve Smith and ball-tampering architect David Warner through their surveys killed any chance of their suspensions being reviewed.
"They did a hell of a lot of interviews, but significantly the player response was down," Craddock said.
"Only 14 of the 42 players who were sent a survey filled it in. That didn't help Smith and Warner in their bans. The response from the players who did respond was that the bans were appropriate, generally.
"Had there been a landslide of protest about their bans it could have really helped those two."
The relationships between CA and the ACA became strained during last year's volatile pay dispute.
The ACA - backed publicly by the players - wanted to maintain a shared revenue model while CA wanted to abandon it and introduce set salaries. The players and ACA eventually won out.