Cricket Australia chief Kevin Roberts has dismissed concerns the impending returns of the team's former leaders will unsettle the resurgent side as it emerged Australia's bowlers threatened not to play alongside David Warner in the final Test in South Africa.
Multiple sources have confirmed that star bowlers Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon were intending to withdraw from the fourth Test of last year's infamous series if Warner had been free to play.
While Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft had been censured by the International Cricket Council for their involvement in the Cape Town ball tampering controversy, Warner was not charged but was later found by a CA investigation to be the "architect" of the sandpaper plot.
All three were suspended before the Johannesburg Test so it's unknown if the bowlers would have followed through with their threats. Nevertheless, the revelation highlights the extent of the fracture within the dressing-room in the immediate aftermath of one of the most damaging events in Australian cricket history.
Warner and Smith on Thursday completed the 12-month suspensions imposed by CA and are now free to continue their international careers.
Though Australia struggled for long periods without the superstar duo, the team has rebounded impressively in the past two months.
The one-day international series wins on the road against India and Pakistan have revived their hopes of defending their World Cup crown in England just months before the start of the showpiece event.
Despite the recent spike in Australia's performances, Warner and Smith are expected to be named in the World Cup squad at the expense of a player who has contributed to the team's form reversal.
The pair were reunited briefly with the ODI squad in the UAE earlier this month though senior players Tim Paine, Starc and Hazlewood were not present.
Roberts described the meeting as a "really positive step" in the reintegration process though he noted "a meeting in Dubai doesn't mean everything is fixed".
They are set to return to an Australian set-up that has changed markedly under the leadership of Test captain Tim Paine and limited-overs skipper Aaron Finch.
Roberts said he had been "really impressed" by the banned trio's behaviour while serving their suspensions. Warner and Smith have been widely praised by their local clubs for their contributions on and off the field.
Bancroft, Roberts said, had personally apologised to CA's receptionists who fielded hundreds of calls from disappointed fans last year.
While Smith and Bancroft created headlines with controversial interviews that overshadowed the start of the Boxing Day Test, Warner has limited his rare public comments to general cricket matters.
Roberts is confident Smith and Warner will not have a negative impact on team harmony when they return.
"What we're focused on is doing everything we can to support Dave, Steve, Cameron and all the other players in support staff with this reintegration to build harmony rather than to disrupt the harmony that is building," Roberts said at the Melbourne Press Club.
"At the same time, let's be open about it. At any workplace you don't have to be best mates with everyone you work with.
"There needs to be a foundation of respect, absolutely. I think there's growing respect there and we'll continue to support players, with the right discussions, and work tRead More – Source