Steve Smith’s future as Australian cricket captain appears increasingly in doubt as the reaction and punishments over his involvement in a tampering plot during the third Test against South Africa continues to grow.
The International Cricket Council banned Smith from taking part in the fourth Test against South Africa and fined him 100% of his match fee after he admitted to attempting to change the condition of the ball “in order to gain an unfair advantage”.
ICC chief executive David Richardson charged Smith under the ICC Code of Conduct for Players for “conduct of a serious nature that is contrary to the spirit of the game”, which Smith accepted.
He will also have four demerit points added to his record.
Australian opener Cameron Bancroft was also charged under the Code of Conduct for “changing the condition of the ball” and fined 75% of his match fee and handed three demerit points for his onfield role in the incident.
Smith agreed to Cricket Australia’s request stand down as captain for the remainder of the third Test in Cape Town, along with vice-captain David Warner, with Tim Paine taking over the captain duties.
Meanwhile, Australia’s batting collapsed in the second innings during the fourth day’s play to be all out for 107. South Africa won by 322 runs, with bowler Morne Morkel taking 5-23.
Richardson said Smith needed to take full responsibility for the actions of his players and the suspension was appropriate.
“The decision made by the leadership group of the Australian team to act in this way is clearly contrary to the spirit of the game, risks causing significant damage to the integrity of the match, the players and the sport itself and is therefore ‘serious’ in nature,” he said.
Richardson added that the game needed to “raise the bar” to protect the spirit of cricket.
“The game needs to have a hard look at itself. In recent weeks we have seen incidents of ugly sledging, send-offs, dissent against umpires’ decisions, a walk-off, ball tampering and some ordinary off-field behaviour,” he said.
“The ICC needs to do more to prevent poor behaviour and better police the defining more clearly what is expected of players and enforcing the regulations in a consistent fashion.
“In addition and most importantly Member countries need to show more accountability for their teams’ conduct. Winning is important but not at the expense of the spirit of the game which is intrinsic and precious to the sport of cricket.”
The sanctions against Smith look set to continue with a cloud now over his captaincy of the Indian Premier League side Rajasthan Royals.
Royals executive chairman Ranjit Barthakur issued a statement saying they were aware of the ball tampering controversy and now await further instructions from the Indian cricket board (BCCI).
“We at Rajasthan Royals will not tolerate any actions that are unfair by definition and bring disrepute to the game of cricket,” he said.
“Our Zero tolerance policy applies to everyone in our team. Please bear with us.”
Stand-in captain Tim Paine apologised to fans after “a horrible 24 hours” during a post-match interview.
“I’d like to take the opportunity to apologise to our fans and the Australians back home and over here, they deserve better than what we put up yesterday,” he said.
And Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland sent an email to Australian fans last night also apologising, saying “we share your anger and disappointment”.
His comments were an escalation of his “not happy” earlier in the day, when many viewed Sutherland and CA as dragging their feet on action as the magnitude of the anger against the side’s leadership over the cheating scandal grew.
Here is Sutherland’s letter:
To our Australian Cricket Fans,
We are sorry.
We are sorry that you had to wake up this morning to news from South Africa that our Australian Men’s Cricket team and our Captain admitted to conduct that is outside both the Laws of our game and the Spirit of Cricket.
This behaviour calls into question the integrity of the team and Cricket Australia.
Following discussions with Steve Smith and David Warner they have agreed to stand down as Captain and Vice-Captain respectively for the remainder of this Test match.
As I said at a media conference earlier today, Cricket Australia and Australian cricket fans expect high standards from cricketers representing our country, and on this occasion these standards have not been met.
We know how you feel and have heard your feedback loud and clear. We share your anger and disappointment.
As you would be aware, we have launched an immediate investigation into what transpired in Cape Town, and our Head of Integrity is travelling to South Africa as we speak.
All Australians, like us, want answers and we will keep you updated on our findings, as a matter of urgency.
Chief Executive Officer – Cricket Australia
The widespread barrage of cricitism against the Australians included former English spinner Graeme Swann, who told BBC radio that the side was “friendless”.
“You have to remember that this Australia team are so friendless in cricket because of the way they’ve carried on, and especially Warner,” he said.
“They’ve set themselves as this higher than high, this pious team who look down at everyone and set the benchmark for what is right and wrong in cricket, when everyone who’s played against them knows that’s an absolute joke.”
Veteran commentator Henry Blofeld was also scathing in calling for a clear-out of Australian cricket’s leadership.
Smith & Warner should never be allowed to play again. Lehman must go & Bancroft tho he was presumably sucked in & to curry favour went along with it. Like match-fixing, ball tampering is a cancer and those caught, must be completely cut out. Aussie PM’s reaction was spot on.
— Henry Blofeld (@blowersh) March 25, 2018
And Warner’s hypocrisy was revealed in his comments saying he’d be “appalled” if Australians tampered with the ball.
Warner made the comments in 2016 after South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis was found guilty of ball tampering by the ICC for using mints to alter the condition of the ball during the tour of Australia.
— The Cricketer (@TheCricketerMag) March 25, 2018
Warner, a member of the leadership team which approved the ball-tampering plan, has not been sanctioned by the ICC.