Cox’s Bazar Desk:
An ICC suspension from the final Test against South Africa may be just the start of sanctions for Australia’s captain Steven Smith, who alongside his deputy David Warner faces anything up to a life ban for cheating under Cricket Australia’s code of behaviour.
While Australia slid towards their heaviest defeat to South Africa since readmission, the problems raised by another batting surrender were nothing next to the potential ramifications from the ball tampering attempted on the third day of the Test.
Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft all fell amid the rush of ten Australian wickets for 50 runs to end a match that had long since ceased to be a contest of any recognisable form, so hijacked had the visitors been by the ball-tampering fiasco. Each was roundly booed upon their arrivals at the batting crease, then given still louder rebukes upon their departures, with fans rushing to vantage points either side of the players’ race to deliver invective at close range.
As CA’s head of integrity Iain Roy and team performance manager Pat Howard travelled to Cape Town to commence an investigation, the CA Board bowed to pressure from the Australian Sports Commission to strip Smith and Warner of their leadership roles for the remainder of the Newlands Test, following their roles in orchestrating the ball tampering attempt that also involved Bancroft.
The focus has sharpened on Smith and Warner, after it was clarified that the lunchtime discussion did not involve the full “leadership group,” which has also featured Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon, but was instead undertaken by “senior players”.
The CA chief executive James Sutherland also issued a public apology to Australian followers of the game, with the Board at a delicate point in the multimillion dollar television rights negotiations for the next five years with the Nine, Ten and Seven networks and the pay television network Fox Sports.
“To our Australian Cricket Fans, we are sorry,” Sutherland said. “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.”
The outraged response of the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who spoke to the CA chairman David Peever the moment he touched down on his return from South Africa, was given further heft by the joint call from the ASC chair John Wylie and chief executive Kate Palmer for Smith and Warner to be stood down immediately from leadership until Roy’s investigation is complete.