Disgraced Australia cricket captain Steve Smith was banned for one game as he and vice-captain David Warner stepped down from their roles on Sunday amid a ball-tampering scandal that has outraged the cricketing world and threatens a far more damaging fallout for one of the game’s most exalted teams.
While many former cricketers criticised ICC’s one-match ban on Smith as being too mild, sources told TOI that Cricket Australia, facing a massive outrage at home, is likely to announce “exemplary punishment” — which could even be a life ban — for the “leadership group” in the team. The ICC also fined batsman Cameron Bancroft, the man tasked with doing the tampering, 75% of his match fee and three disciplinary demerit points.
The scandal brought back memories of Smith’s “brain fade” episode during Australia’s tour of India last year. The captain had illegally sought the help of his dressing room on whether to review the on-field umpire’s decision.
The latest scandal caused Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to ask: “How can our team be engaged in cheating like this? It beggars belief.”
The ICC also fined Australia batsman Cameron Bancroft, who was the man tasked with doing the tampering on the field, 75% of his match fee and three disciplinary demerit points.
Smith, the No. 1 batsman in Test cricket, and Warner stepped down from their leadership roles for the remainder of the third Test. Smith had confessed to cheating by tampering with the ball with a piece of yellow adhesive tape and some dirt during play on Saturday.
Smith and Warner turned up to play on the fourth day of the Test at Newlands in Cape Town, which Australia lost by 322 runs, but had no leadership responsibilities. Their long-term futures hang in the balance, Cricket Australia said.
Wicketkeeper Tim Paine stood in as captain as Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland promised an urgent and full investigation into one of the most embarrassing moments for Australian sport.
Two senior CA officials — head of integrity Iain Roy and high-performance manager Pat Howard — were urgently dispatched to South Africa to lead the investigation. “All Australians, like us, want answers and we will keep you updated on our findings as a matter of priority,” Sutherland said, addressing his statement in parts to a cricket-mad Australian public shocked by the admission to cheating from their team.
Cameron Bancroft appeared alongside Smith to confess that he was the man tasked with doing the on-field cheating. The plan was hatched by the team’s “leadership group”, Smith said, but he refused to give other names.
Smith was banned for the final Test of the series and Bancroft was given three disciplinary demerit points by the ICC, but not suspended.
Warner’s possible role in the plot was not addressed by the ICC but Cricket Australia might still deal with all three of them.
“We’ll move past this,” Smith said while confessing to the cheating on Saturday. “It’s a big error in judgment but we’ll learn from it and move past it.”
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