Australia captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft will be sent home from South Africa and face “significant sanctions” for their role in the ball-tampering scandal that has rocked cricket Down Under.
The serious punishments, which could include lengthy bans for all three and the stripping of the captaincy and vice-captaincy from Smith and Warner permanently, will be announced in the next 24 hours once an internal investigation into the cheating scandal was completed, Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said.
“I am angry and disappointed,” Sutherland said, his voice trembling at times as he spoke at a press conference in South Africa. “This is not a good day for Australian cricket.”
Sutherland’s announcement came in a hotel in Johannesburg after he was forced to fly halfway round the world to deal with one of the most embarrassing and damaging incidents in the history of one of cricket’s biggest teams.
Smith and Bancroft were forced to make a humiliating confession following the close of play on Saturday after their plot to tamper with the ball and cheat South Africa in a game in Cape Town was exposed – almost in comical fashion.
Having decided to try and rough up the ball with a piece of yellow adhesive tape and some dirt, Bancroft was caught on television cameras on the field doing the deed and then trying to hide the tape down the front of his trousers.
They were caught and forced to come clean, but their actions have outraged Australians, who hold their hugely successful cricket team dear.
Sutherland spoke repeatedly about the long-term damage the three players had caused to Australian cricket.
“It’s about the integrity and reputation of Australian cricket and Australian sport,” Sutherland said. “Ultimately it’s about whether Australians can feel proud of their sporting teams.”
Smith, the golden boy of Australian cricket, is set to lose the captaincy for good. 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.
They all are likely to be banned for more than just the one match Smith received for the offence from the International Cricket Council.
“In regards to the three players on report, I want to stress that we are contemplating significant sanctions in each case,” Sutherland said. “These sanctions will reflect the gravity with which we view what has occurred and the damage it has done to the standing of Australian cricket.”
Those three were the only players involved in the ball- tampering plot in the third Test against South Africa on Saturday, Sutherland insisted, after receiving only parts of a report from CA’s integrity officer Iain Roy.
Sutherland said that the internal investigation, which also included two International Cricket Council integrity officers, had not been completed. Darren Lehmann was not involved in the tampering plot, Sutherland said, clearing him to continue as coach of Australia.
Tim Paine will take over as team captain for the fourth and final Test in South Africa, starting on Friday, while Smith, Warner and Bancroft will be on a flight home in the next 24 hours, where they will face a nation outraged by their actions.
Smith and Bancroft confessed to their roles in the plot, but Warner was not named formally as also being part of the cheating until yesterday.
Their places in the Australian team will be taken by Matt Renshaw, Glenn Maxwell and Joe Burns, who were all flying over to South Africa in the next day, Sutherland said.
Australia still have a series to play, and trail 2-1 ahead of the fourth and final Test, facing losing a series in South Africa for the first time in nearly 50 years.