The Rebellion Against Warner: If He Plays, We're Not Playing
The 12-month bans officially end today for ball-tamperering architect Dave Warner and the captain who was too weak to stop him, Steve Smith.
But while Smith is likely to be welcomed back by teammates with open arms, it's becoming very unclear whether Warner will be greeted the same way.
Overnight, reports emerged in Fairfax Media that Australia's star Test bowling quartet of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon all planned to withdraw from the final Test of the ball-tampering series in South Africa if Warner played.
This, of course, was just before Warner was banned, and it's the clearest indication yet that the team was mightily p*ssed off with him, and wanted absolutely nothing to do with the man who had tarnished the name of Australian cricket.
They say that time heals all wounds. Twelve months on, has it healed this one?
That's the key question as Australia heads into a huge cricketing midyear, with the World Cup, followed by The Ashes, both in England.
Last week, en route to an IPL stint in India, Warner met with the Australian team in the UAE, where they were preparing for their One Day series against Pakistan, which they now lead 3-0.
"Hugs and cuddles," he said of the way he was met by players.
Even if players have forgiven Warner, the team has changed markedly since his departure. Gone is the cynical sledge-at-all-costs, cheat-at-all-costs mentality. The Aussies are nice guys now, or at least they're trying to be nicer.
No less a figure than Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts called Warner's UAE meeting with the team a "really positive step", but he also said that "a meeting in Dubai doesn't mean everything is fixed".
There it is from the top. Not everything is fixed. By which you could very reasonably infer that the players still have animosity towards Warner. And if that's the case, how can he be selected?
The Aussies have in recent weeks found their One Day form. They won their first series in two years (against India in India -- no mean feat), and they've already won this one in Pakistan.
They could still field a very formidable outfit to defend their World Cup title with or without Dave Warner. And even if the 32-year-old leftie was a huge contributor with the bat, it's not just about the runs.
Do they not say a united team is a happy team is a successful team? Can Australia really be that team with Dave Warner in it?