Is Cricket Australia set to water down ball-tampering penalties?
SEVERAL key powerbrokers have had second thoughts on the punishments handed down to Steve Smith and David Warner, but the question is whether Cricket Australia would ever be prepared to backtrack.
There is no chance of the pair playing international cricket before their bans expire.
However, there have been persistent whispers over the past two months that CA might not have completely blanked out the prospect of softening the element of the penalties which has the duo banned from all domestic cricket for the full 12 months.
Cricket Australia emphatically deny this is up for debate but it's understood some board members have privately expressed fears they might have gone too hard on the finer points of the landmark sanctions.
Shane Watson last week called on CA to allow Smith and Warner to play in the Big Bash League, and there is a growing chorus of current and ex-players who believe the deposed captain and vice-captain should be given the chance to put back into Sheffield Shield cricket.
The final four matches of the Shield summer begin on February 23, well after all the home Test matches are over and the spotlight is gone.
There have been suggestions that CA could consider allowing Smith and Warner back from the wilderness for this period - a month before their 12 months is up.
It would have the dual benefit of boosting the standard of the Shield competition, while at the same time solving the conundrum of giving Smith and Warner some serious cricket before they may be thrust back for the World Cup and Ashes campaigns in the winter.
"It's surprised me that they were restricted from playing domestic cricket to be honest with you, because I thought it was a wonderful opportunity for our first-class game in Australia to have two of the game's modern-day greats - in Steve and Dave's case - playing every single game," said respected coach and former international Tom Moody.
"To me it adds richness and quality to the tournament and challenges the competition."
If any leniency is shown it might be framed out of Cricket Australia's cultural review in the context of being some kind of reward for the players should they satisfy their 100 hours of community service and tick all the other boxes with their rehabilitation program.
Current NSW star Moises Henriques believes allowing Smith and Warner to play Shield cricket would be not only a fair and reasonable review of the situation now the dust has settled, but also a huge boost to the domestic game and the Big Bash.
"I hope so. I personally feel those three guys (including Cameron Bancroft) got hung out to dry a little bit to be honest," said Henriques, who is a long-time friend and teammate of the pair.
"I know having them around the NSW group (the past few weeks) has even helped me and helped my batting and I've been playing professional cricket for 14 years. You can imagine what effect that would have on some youngsters that are just starting out.
"To observe the way they go about their preparation and observe how they go about playing games, I think it would be very beneficial to Australian cricket in the long-run.
"And also to start that interaction again with fans and actually have them out there and being active in the game and being a benefit to the game rather than just sitting at home doing nothing."
However, there is another side to the argument. Cricket Australia could face a backlash for changing their minds, and there are concerns that allowing Smith and Warner back early wouldn't be fair on Cameron Bancroft who is serving a nine-month ban. CA might not legally be able to go back on their code of conduct decsions.
"If you ban them for 12 months you've obviously done it for a reason. I don't think they can then turn around and start chopping and changing," said Ian Chappell.
"If you're going to let them play in the Big Bash League, then the argument would be why aren't you going to let them play for Australia?
"I don't think they can backtrack."