Any hope that Steven Smith and David Warner may have had of a commuted suspension from playing international and state cricket has seemingly been snuffed out by affirmation of their 12-month playing bans from the chairman and chief executive of their home association, Cricket New South Wales (NSW).
In their addresses as part of the submission of the NSW annual report, the incoming chairman John Knox and the continuing chief executive Andrew Jones said that while the rehabilitation of Smith and Warner was paramount after their suspensions over the Newlands ball-tampering scandal, the harsh stance taken by Cricket Australia via its code of conduct was justified.
"During the season, cricket throughout Australia and across the world was shocked by the ball-tampering incident in South Africa," Knox said. "This was particularly upsetting for Cricket NSW with two of our finest players, national captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner, subsequently suspended by the Cricket Australia Board for 12 months.
"Cricket NSW supports the strong stance taken by Cricket Australia. Australia's millions of passionate fans expect that their national team not only plays good, competitive cricket but plays it in the right spirit. Our players represent all of us on the world stage. However, having been dealt harsh penalties and shown true remorse for their mistakes, it is important that the NSW cricket family supports Steve and David through these tough times and welcomes them back when they return. We are all human."
There had been some speculation from NSW that there would be an effort made to reduce the length of the bans or to change their terms to allow Smith and Warner to play in the Sheffield Shield for the Blues. However Jones, a former head of strategy at CA, described the penalties as "proportionate" to public dissatisfaction with the national team.
"The 12-month bans handed to Steve and David were heavy but proportionate to the public's disappointment. Cricket Australia should be commended for its principled stance on a challenging issue," Jones said. "That said, it was obvious from their press conferences that Steve and David truly regret the incident.
"They have accepted their punishment and are working hard to restore public faith in themselves and the game. It is important that the NSW cricket family supports Steve and David through this difficult time. We look forward to welcoming them both back onto the cricket field when NSW Premier Cricket begins in late September."
Prior to being elected as NSW chairman, Knox's major role in Australian cricket had been to work as a key consultant to CA in successive broadcast rights deals - he also serves as chief executive of the Australian wing of the investment bank Credit Suisse. As such, he held a key interest in ensuring that the AUD 1.18 billion deal signed in April with News Corporation and the Seven Network delivered as much cash as possible, the better to direct overdue strategic funding to the lower levels of cricket in NSW.
"Despite the headlines generated by the Cape Town incident, and the challenging MoU negotiation between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association that preceded it, the game continues to grow in popularity," Knox said. "Our game has never been played by more people - men and women, girls and boys of all ages - and has never been watched by more fans either at the ground or on television.
"Indeed, a matter of weeks after the South African tour, Cricket Australia signed a record $1.2 billion television rights deal which will lead to more cricket, both men's and women's, being shown live on TV. This also allows cricket to invest in all parts of the game, especially grass roots. This will particularly benefit cricket in NSW. We have made the case that CA has under-invested in NSW relative to smaller states for many years. At last, we are receiving a favourable hearing.
"We have already received enough additional funds from CA to employ an extra 12 Community Cricket Managers throughout NSW, increasing by a third the number directly serving schools, associations and clubs. There will be many more next year, when the media rights revenue begins to flow in earnest."
Jones lauded Knox for his part in the negotiations, while also pointing out the state's role in driving strategic decisions such as the move of the Women's Big Bash League to a standalone slot at the start of the summer from 2019 onwards. Jones said of Knox: "In his capacity as one of Australia's leading investment bankers gave his time pro bono to conduct the landmark media rights auction for Cricket Australia. The final deal was comfortably a record, and the game will benefit from John's efforts for years to come.
"There were bigger headlines at times, but the media rights deal was the most important story of the year. It reflected years of strategic planning and execution across Australian Cricket, especially the launch and growth of the BBL/WBBL. Cricket NSW can be very proud of the part it has played in that process."
As for the Blues' poor recent performances, Jones described the new coach Phil Jaques as being given a brief to develop talent after the apparent failure of the generation following Smith and Warner to reach similar heights. "It was obvious that changes were required on and off the field," Jones said. "Former Blue Trent Johnston left as head coach with our thanks and best wishes with two Matador Cup titles to his credit in three seasons.
"He was replaced by assistant Phil Jaques and there was a restructure of the coaching staff and programmes. Phil's brief is to bring through the next generation of top-class NSW talent in partnership with our senior players and, while patience may be required, we are confident he will achieve sustained success in the coming seasons."