Australian cricket faces huge backlash over ball-tampering scandal
SYDNEY – Agence France-Presse
Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland was rushing to South Africa on March 26 with the sport facing one of the toughest weeks in its history as a backlash grows over a ball-tampering scandal which is likely to cost Steve Smith the Test captaincy.
Sponsors expressed “deep concern” as media and fans called for widespread changes and decisive action following the shock admission that Smith and senior team members plotted to cheat in South Africa.
Smith, 28, was removed from the captaincy for the remainder of the third Test against South Africa on Sunday and was then banned for one match by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
His team’s weekend of shame then ended in a crushing 322-run rout. Set an unlikely 430 to win, Australia was bowled out for a paltry 107 with fast bowler Morne Morkel taking five for 23.
Now Smith is expected to face a harsh sanction from under-pressure Cricket Australia (CA) for his role in the plot which saw teammate Cameron Bancroft tamper with the ball by using yellow sticky tape, before desperately trying to conceal the evidence down the front of his trousers.
A charge of conduct contrary to the spirit of the game includes a possible life ban.
CA has sent its head of integrity Iain Roy and head of team performance Pat Howard to Cape Town to conduct an investigation, with Sutherland, who is facing mounting pressure to take responsibility for what Australian media slammed as a “rotten” team culture, now deciding to join them.
Smith and all members of the team will remain in South Africa to assist in the probe to determine exactly what happened, and who knew.Smith, whose talents with the bat have drawn breathless comparisons with Aussie great Don Bradman, is not the only man caught in the crosshairs.
David Warner also stood down from his role as vice-captain, while questions remain over coach Darren Lehmann although Smith said the former Australian international was not involved in the conspiracy.
Smith initially said the decision was made by the leadership group within the team, but reports in Australia said Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, seen as among those senior figures, were not involved and angry at being implicated.
“It’s been a horrible 24 hours -- I want to apologize to our fans and those back home,” said Tim Paine, who was handed the stand-in skipper role on March 25.