SHANE Warne may have played his last competitive game of cricket if the Melbourne Stars lose to Sydney Thunder on Tuesday night and do not make the finals of the Big Bash League.
Warne has been suspended for one match and fined $1450 for his altercation with Melbourne Renegades all-rounder Marlon Samuels.
Nursing a suspected fractured eye socket, a disillusioned Samuels was holed up in his hotel room on Monday, with the Renegades wondering why their key import had become the centre of a pack attack in the BBL.
Already verbally attacked by rival coaches Darren Lehmann and Darren Berry in recent weeks over the legality of his faster delivery, Samuels is now dealing with the fallout of a heated confrontation with Warne during the Renegades' thumping win over the Stars on Sunday night.
As Warne was handed his suspension and faced the prospect of having played his final game, Samuels' injury was assessed at Epworth Hospital on Monday, having top-edged a fast ball from Sri Lankan paceman Lasith Malinga through the grill of his helmet. He retired hurt on 17.
But it was his earlier spat with Warne that created headlines.
Warne faced four charges at a Cricket Australia hearing on Monday, and felt he was harshly treated. He will miss the crunch clash against the Thunder at the MCG.
The Stars must win their final home-and-away match to make the semi-finals. If they don't, Warne, at 43 and on a year-to-year contract, may have played his final competitive game.
Stars chief executive Clint Cooper was uncertain if cricket's greatest leg-spinner would play on next year. ''It's a year-by-year discussion, obviously, with a guy who is 43,'' he said.
''We will let the water go under the bridge
for this season. We are still in it. If we win the game [against the Thunder], we are in the semi-finals, that's our immediate focus. We will hold any discussions post-season.''
CA chief executive James Sutherland, who gave Warne a mild admonishment over his behaviour, was also curious about the leg-spinner's future.
While Warne will still play an active role as captain off the field against the Thunder, Samuels' immediate future is in doubt.
''The disillusionment comes from Marlon himself and how he is feeling at the moment,'' Renegades chief executive Stuart Coventry said.
''[There is a] tactical pack mentality in certain situations to get into people's heads. He seems to be the target of innuendo and it pretty much all started after the Brisbane Heat game.''
Samuels has also been asked by CA to explain his behaviour, having been charged with making inappropriate physical contact.
The feud was sparked when Samuels, while bowling, physically impeded the progress of David Hussey by grabbing his shirt as he turned for a second run.
Hussey was angered by Samuels' decision, which the West Indian tried to downplay.
When Samuels was batting, Warne confronted the Jamaican, wagged his finger in his face and said ''F--- you, Marlon''.
In the next over, an underarm throw from Warne struck Samuels on the body, prompting the West Indian to throw his bat in disgust. The umpire was forced to intervene.
Coventry hoped Samuels' experience would not damage hopes of luring more overseas players to the BBL, which it needs to do to increase its worldwide appeal and drive up television revenue.
''He's a good fella. He's got a fantastic heart and he's been a fantastic person in our camp, and I would hate to think he would go back overseas and say that things regarding the Big Bash are not good,'' Coventry said.
Stars batsman Cameron White received a suspended fine of $1000 after he pleaded guilty to showing dissent to an umpire's decision.