Attempts by Steven Smith and Cameron Bancroft to deflect ultimate blame for the Newlands ball-tampering scandal towards David Warner have done little to change Cricket Australia's plans to reintegrate the former vice-captain into the national team, as influential former players spoke out against the interviews aired on Boxing Day.
While both Smith and Bancroft accepted responsibility for their part in the Newlands scandal that led to the pair being suspended alongside Warner, their words were angled away from full admission, whether in Smith saying he said "I don't want to know about it" when Warner indicated the need to do something with the ball, or Bancroft stating bluntly that Warner "suggested to me to carry the action out on the ball" and that he "didn't know any better".
Smith's interview with Fox Cricket and an earlier press conference arrived in the wake of an advertising campaign for Vodafone that traded off his CA-imposed community work in schools and even used footage of his tearful initial press conference. Bancroft's interview, also on Fox Cricket, was part of a plan devised by the WACA ahead of his return to domestic ranks via the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League at the end of this month.
Nevertheless, CA's chief executive Kevin Roberts was blunt in stating that the governing body was intent upon reintegrating Warner who has remained silent for some months, except for one brief press conference after a grade game at Coogee which had also featured Smith, as part of the national team. The national team coach Justin Langer has stated his belief that Warner can return as a valued member of the team, though his CA code of conduct sanction included the clause that he never again be allowed to hold a leadership role.
"I don't know that it does," Roberts told SEN Radio when asked whether the isolation of Warner by Bancroft and Smith would impact on his chances of returning. "Our focus is to work with Dave, who I spoke to about three days ago on his integration plan. I think what is really important is that Dave, Steve and Cameron will really need sign to up to the players' mantra that everything they do is really seeking to make Australians proud. Our non-negotiable expectation is that we compete with honour.
"The Cape Town incident happened nine months ago, the investigation was conducted, the sanctions were handed down, and our focus now is working towards the reintegration of the players. Our focus is on that reintegration and moving forward as to how we can support all of the players through that period.
"Our focus is on how we proactively look forward and work with the players, rather than be concerned with what has happened in the past."
Australia's white-ball captain Aaron Finch, who Roberts has said would be canvased alongside Tim Paine about the national teams' willingness to have the banned players back, said he would not hesitate in welcoming them. "It hasn't been talked about a huge amount," Finch said. "Cameron's two days away from being back to Perth Scorchers, I think...it's nine months ago.
"In the next three months when Davey and Steve are ready to be allowed to come back and play for Australia and their states from my point of view they'll be welcomed back with open arms. Whatever's happened has happened, the punishment's been dealt with, they've been working really hard off the field to meet every criteria and go above and beyond everything that's been asked of them to come back and play international cricket again."
The timing of Smith and Bancroft's public words, leading up to and on the biggest day of the Australian cricket calendar, did not please CA but the body was resigned to the fact that neither player was currently in possession of a central contract and thus free to choose their own actions. However, the former captain Ricky Ponting was staunchly critical of the interviews, though he believed that Smith was capable of returning to lead Australia at some point in the future.
"I just don't think he [Bancroft] had to say some of the things he had to say to be honest," Ponting said on Seven. "I am not too sure how happy the players will be about it, or how happy Cricket Australia will be about it. I was very disappointed about the timing of it.
"Even the way he presented himself in that interview ... he's trying to rebuild his brand and that sort of thing, and I think some of the things he's had to say have actually done more damage to his brand than what had happened before."
"I think he [Smith] will come back into the captaincy. At the end of the day he has owned up to what his leadership failures are. Hopefully I am like most, I am willing to forgive after he serves his penalty. I think he will come back a much better person and a much better leader after what's happened."