JOHANNESBURG: Australia captain Steve Smith, his deputy David Warner and Cameron Bancroft are being sent home from the South Africa tour for their role in a cheating plot that has shaken the sport but coach Darren Lehmann was not involved, Cricket Australia (CA) said on Tuesday.
The sanction against the trio was announced by CA chief executive James Sutherland, who had flown into Johannesburg just hours earlier to get to the bottom of the scandal, at a packed news conference here on Tuesday evening.
Read: The stain on baggy green — how a tampering incident tarnished Australian cricket's image
Smith — the golden boy of Australian cricket — faces being stripped of the captaincy for good for his part in a plot to tamper with the ball in the third Test against South Africa.
Warner, whose role in the scandal was officially confirmed for the first time by Sutherland, is also likely to be permanently fired as vice-captain.
All three players could be facing lengthy bans in the next 24 hours judging by the reaction of their boss, who was somber-faced and acknowledged being angry over the scandal as he made his announcement at a press conference in Johannesburg.
“I am angry and disappointed,” Sutherland said, his voice trembling at times. “This is not a good day for Australian cricket. I understand and share the anger and disappointment of Australian fans.
“On behalf of Cricket Australia, I want to apologise to all Australians that these events have taken place, especially to all the kids.”
Those three were the only players involved in the ball tampering plot in the Cape Town Test on Saturday, Sutherland insisted, after receiving parts of a report from CA’s integrity officer Iain Roy.
Sutherland said that internal investigation, which also included two International Cricket Council integrity officers, had not been completed, but will be in the next 24 hours and the three players can expect serious punishments after that. Long-term bans are possible for all three.
Lehmann was not involved in the tampering plot, Sutherland said, clearing him to continue as coach of Australia.
Tim Paine will take over as captain of the team for the fourth Test in South Africa starting on Friday, while Smith, Warner and Bancroft would be on a flight home in the next 24 hours, where they will face a nation outraged by their actions.
Bancroft was the man tasked with tampering with the ball with a piece of yellow adhesive tape and some dirt gathered from the pitch during the third day of the third Test. Bancroft bungled it, however, and was caught on TV cameras doing the tampering and then trying to hide the piece of tape down the front of his trousers.
Smith and Bancroft confessed to their roles in the plot, but Warner was not named formally as also being part of the cheating until Tuesday.
Smith has already been suspended for one Test and docked his entire match fee by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in a scandal which has seen Australian cricket’s reputation dragged through the mud.
Paine he had led the team on the fourth day of the Cape Town Test after Smith and Warner were stood down as captain and vice-captain. That decision, which was soon followed by ICC sanctions for Smith and Bancroft, had been taken following tremendous pressure from back home, including the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Earlier on Tuesday, opening batsman Matt Renshaw hit the winning runs in Australia’s domestic cricket final before being rushed to South Africa to join a squad mired in scandal.
Renshaw’s call-up, along with those of Joe Burns and Glenn Maxwell, was expected after the 21-year-old was ironically replaced as Australia opener by Bancroft before last year’s Ashes series, but he has returned to form since being sent back to the domestic Sheffield Shield first-class competition.
The announcement that he had been drafted into the Australian squad came before he went out to bat on Tuesday, and he capped his national recall with an unbeaten 81 from 83 deliveries in Queensland’s nine-wicket win over Tasmania in the final.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Renshaw said. “People dream about winning a Shield their whole cricket careers and managing to do it at 21 and obviously what’s coming [in South Africa], I can look forward to that, but I’ve got to enjoy a thing that not many people manage to do.” Renshaw, who has scored 623 runs in 10 Tests at an average of 36.64, said he hadn’t been concentrating much on the ball-tampering scandal.
“Just been putting all my emotions into winning [for Queensland] and it’s just relief now,” he said.
Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2018