STEVE SMITH: 'I am sorry... I’ll regret this for the rest of my life'

Brook Mitchell/Getty ImagesSteve Smith fronts the media after returning home in disgrace following a ball-tampering incident in South Africa.

Former Australian cricket captain Steve Smith broke down when facing the media on his return to Sydney, apologising for his failure of leadership during the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

A distraught Smith, 28, his father Peter’s hand on his shoulder for reassurance during his statement, said he took full responsibility for what happened, and was “absolutely gutted”.

Pausing to compose himself and take a breath, Smith apologised and said he hoped he could redeem himself, pledging to “do everything I can to make up for my mistake and the damage it’s caused”.

His mistake will cost Smith more than $4 million over the next 12 months he has been banned from playing professional cricket. Aside from sponsors, including Sanitarium, which ended its relationship with Smith as a Weet-Bix brand ambassador, Smith has lost his $1.5 million Cricket Australia contract and his $2.4 million contract with the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Warner has also lost his IPL contract of a similar value.

Smith and co-captain David Warner have been banned for 12 months, while batsman Cameron Bancroft, who was caught with the “tape” that turned out to be sandpaper – he and Smith lied about it at a media conference during the third test – received a nine-month suspension.

Warner will never again hold a leadership position in Australian cricket as the key instigator of the cheating plot. It will be two years before Smith and Bancroft can be considered for a senior roles again.

All three must take part in 100 hours of voluntary work in community cricket.

Smith’s media conference was genuine and gut-wrenching.

Answering media questions afterwards, the former captain said he’d “made a big mistake allowing this to happen. It was a huge error of judgement on my part”.

For all the devastation the incident has caused – the shockwaves it’s sent through the nation – there was a sense that Smith, despite his egregious error, had a strong sense of what it means to be a leader.

Asked about Warner’s culpability – and the suggestion that Smith’s failing being drawn into the conspiracy – he said he did not blame others.

“I’m the captain. It’s on my watch and I take responsibility for my actions,” he said.

And aware of those he’d inflicted injured he said: “To see the way my old man’s been… and my mum… it hurts”.

That included children.

“I love the game of cricket, I love entertaining young kids, I love kids wanting to play the great game of cricket that I love. I just want to say sorry for the pain I’ve brought to the Australian fans and public. It’s devastating and I’m truly sorry,” he said.

Smith also offered advice to anyone faced with the temptation to cheat.

“Any time you think about making a questionable decision, think about who you’re affecting, you’re affecting your parents,” he said.

Here is Smith’s full statement:

To all of my teammates, to fans of cricket all over the world and all Australians who are disappointed and angry, I’m sorry.

What happened in Cape Town has already been laid out by Cricket Australia.

Tonight I want to make clear that as captain of the Australian cricket team, I take full responsibility. I made a serious error of judgment and I now understand the consequences.

It was a failure of leadership, on my leadership. I’ll do everything I can to make up for my mistake and the damage it’s caused.

If any good can come of this, if it can be a lesson to others then I hope I can be a force for change.

I know I will regret this for the rest of my life. I’m absolutely gutted. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness.

I’ve been so privileged and honoured to represent my country and captain the Australian cricket team. Cricket is the greatest game in the world. It’s been my life and I hope it can be again.

I’m sorry and I’m absolutely devastated.

I know I’ll regret this for the rest of my life

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