DAVID Warner could summon his teammates to the stand if he elects to go to a watershed hearing that has the potential to spark civil war in Australian cricket.

The deposed vice-captain, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft have until 5pm Thursday to decide if they want to argue their case for reduced sanctions at a hearing which would convene on April 11 and be chaired by an independent commissioner.

With the approval of the appointed commissioner, who would be in charge of setting all the terms of the hearing, Warner would be able to call witnesses including players, coaches, staff and administrators to appear and answer key questions relating to the ball-tampering scandal.

 

Cricket Australia board member Mark Taylor claimed on Nine's Sports Sunday that all players and support staff had been interviewed as part of CA's sandpaper investigation, but The Daily Telegraph understands that's not the case and only select individuals were spoken to by integrity chief Iain Roy about what they knew.

Warner could tip the bucket on Australian cricket if he was to pose a convincing argument that others in fact had knowledge of the Cape Town sandpaper plot, contrary to Cricket Australia's investigation, or if he provided evidence pointing to previous instances of ball tampering within the team.

The batting superstar is yet to rule either of these explosive questions out, nor the prospect of immediate retirement from international cricket.

If Warner challenges sanctions at a hearing, he risks the potential for harsher penalties, including the unlikely maximum of a life ban.

Cricket Australia has not charged Warner, Smith and Bancroft with ball tampering, but rather with bringing the game into disrepute, as the organisation and the players feel the effects of major sponsor Magellan pulling out and increased pressure to deliver a TV rights deal - which could be signed by the end of the week.

Teammates could be called to testify. Picture: AP
Teammates could be called to testify. Picture: AP

Regardless of whether the trio elect to go to a hearing next week, the fallout from the ball-tampering humiliation is a long way from being concluded.

Cricket Australia's review into "culture" will be carried out by an independent party and is set to encompass all of Cricket Australia's operations, not just the team, meaning chief executive James Sutherland will come into the firing line, amid criticism he hasn't done enough from head office to promote the spirit of cricket.

What Warner may or may not have to say in the event he takes up his option for a hearing - likely to be kept behind closed doors for player welfare reasons - has the potential to have a major bearing on what then forms the focus of the cultural review.

James Sutherland will come under scrutiny in the review. Picture: Getty Images
James Sutherland will come under scrutiny in the review. Picture: Getty Images

Warner has taken full responsibility for "his part" in the Cape Town sandpaper plot, but what hasn't been further explored is the fact the vice-captain had served as Australia's unofficial "ball shiner" for several years - a role fully endorsed and encouraged within the team.

Condemnation from Sutherland over a sledging run-in with Indian Rohit Sharma in early 2015 forced Warner to quieten his on-field persona, but senior figures within the team set-up pressured him to return to his attack dog past because they felt that aggressive approach best served the team.

That happened on the eve of the summer Ashes series, when Warner fired up his tongue once more.

David Warner cleaned up his act after the Rohit Sharma spat. Picture: Wayne Ludbey
David Warner cleaned up his act after the Rohit Sharma spat. Picture: Wayne Ludbey

Former Test quick Jeff Thomson said it would be "un-Australian" if Warner was to dob in his mates, but that general attitude might swing in the event it was proved others did know of the scandal yet stayed silent and allowed Warner, Smith and Bancroft to cop the full wrath of CA.

Cricket Australia is confident the evidence gathered by integrity commissioner Iain Roy's independent investigation to determine that only three players and no coaches knew of the plot is strong.

Warner's family had copped sustained abuse from South African fans and officials prior to the sandpaper scandal, and The Daily Telegraph can reveal Cricket South Africa communications chief Altaaf Kazi has now been sacked for posing with spectators who were wearing Sonny Bill Williams masks as a way of trying to demean his wife, Candice.

The independent cultural review will run separate to the hunt for a new coach, which has Justin Langer as the favourite for the Test and ODI jobs and Ricky Ponting to take over as T20 mentor.

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