Senior Cricket Australia code of conduct commissioner Alan Sullivan made a forceful argument for David Warner’s hearing to be open to the media a few hours before the opener spectacularly blew up an attempt to overturn his lifetime leadership ban.
That push for media representation at the hearing, and a refusal to rule out questions directly relating to the 2018 Newlands ball-tampering scandal, were the two triggers that pushed Warner to abandon the process on the eve of the Adelaide Test.
According to correspondence obtained by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Sullivan and his fellow commissioners Adrian Anderson and Robert Heath were steadfast in the belief that the high public interest in Warner’s case compelled them to ensure transparency.
A source with knowledge of the panel’s intentions, who did not wish to be named so as to speak candidly, suggested that while the commissioners would not delve directly into the events in the Cape Town dressing room, they wanted to question Warner on the incident to gauge his remorse and fitness for leadership.
However, the Warner camp felt the precise nature of the questions was not made clear enough in the correspondence.
No previous code of conduct hearing in Australian cricket history has been held in public. In high-profile cases, such as Shane Warne’s drugs ban in 2003, the transcript of the hearing was released at its conclusion.
“Given the importance of this application, the fact it is the first of this kind, the public interest in the matter and the publicity which has already been generated about the possible application, the Panel is of the view that this application should be conducted as transparently as possible (but consistently with giving proper regard to the wellbeing of the Player and his family) and that such transparency requires that it not be heard entirely behind closed doors,” Sullivan, a CA conduct commissioner for more than 20 years, wrote.
“That said, as already indicated, at the hearing the parties will be at liberty to make applications that particular evidence or particular parts of the hearing be conducted in private. The Panel will hear submissions at the time any such applications might be made and consider any material put forward in support. The Panel will then promptly rule on any such application. But the panel is not inclined to make any such rulings in advance of the hearing and without evidence.”
In response to a specific request by Warner and his legal team that “there be no questions regarding the Third Test in Cape Town in 2018”, Sullivan responded that the panel wished to retain its right to ask questions without notice.