Sunday 22 April 2018

Warner and Smith facing lengthy bans from game

A shadow has been cast over Australia captain Steve Smith, the world’s best batsman. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A shadow has been cast over Australia captain Steve Smith, the world’s best batsman. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Nick Hoult

Steve Smith and David Warner are facing the sack as Australia's captain and vice-captain as well as the prospect of lengthy bans for instigating the ball-tampering scandal engulfing Australian cricket.

Smith and Warner were stood down from their jobs for the remainder of the third Test in Cape Town by Cricket Australia (CA) shortly before play yesterday.

Smith was later banned for next week's fourth Test in Johannesburg by the International Cricket Council but that is unlikely to be the end of the punishment, with Cricket Australia's own investigation starting today.

Cameron Bancroft, who carried out the ball-tampering on Saturday, was fined 75pc of his match fee and given three disciplinary points but escaped suspension by the match referee.

One of the darkest days in Australian cricket ended with the team suffering their heaviest defeat by South Africa since readmission. Australia's broken team collapsed spectacularly, losing 10 wickets for 50 runs to go 2-1 down in the series.

Each Australian batsman was booed to the crease by the Cape Town crowd and suffered further abuse after their dismissals. They can expect worse in Johannesburg at the infamous Bullring at the Wanderers.

CA's head of integrity Iain Roy is due to arrive in South Africa today, along with Pat Howard, the team's performance manager, to begin the investigation into Saturday's events.

He will interview Smith, Warner and Bancroft before speaking to other players and coaches to determine who knew what.

Darren Lehmann has so far said nothing publicly about the incident but is fighting for his job as coach. Lehmann will have to resign if it is established he knew what was being cooked up in the dressing-room over lunch on Saturday.

Shifted

But the focus shifted from the coaching staff to Smith and Warner yesterday.

During his confession on Saturday, Smith had said the decision to cheat had been taken by the "leadership group", which implicated coaches and players.

However, CA clarified yesterday that the plan had been hatched by senior players.

The 'Sydney Morning Herald' reported that as the scandal threatens to rip apart the team, senior players including Josh Hazelwood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon were saying privately they had nothing to do with it and felt they were unfairly thrown into the mix by Smith.

Under CA's code of conduct, players can face the maximum of a life ban for cheating, although that would realistically be applied only in cases of match-fixing. Instead, Smith and Warner, if found guilty as the orchestrators of the plot, will be banned for a potentially lengthy period.

Australia are due in England this summer for five one-day internationals.

It is hard to imagine Smith and Warner being selected.

Cricket is the national sport in Australia, and the cricket authorities are under extreme pressure to act quickly.

The prime minister Malcolm Turnbull described the affair as a "shocking disappointment" and urged CA to take "decisive action soon".

James Sutherland, the chief executive of CA, appeared to fight back tears at times when he spoke to the media outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

He later emailed an apology to Australian cricket fans.

"Australian cricket fans want to be proud of their cricket team,'' Sutherland said. ''I feel this morning they have every reason to wake up and not be proud of the team."

This scandal could not come at a worse time for the board; it is at a crucial point in renegotiating television deals and will also worry that sponsors will desert the sport.

It all adds up to the potential for Smith and Warner to face heavy punishment. They have few friends on the CA board after the acrimonious pay dispute of last year and the governing body is under intense pressure from the Australian Sports Commission to take action.

"The ASC calls for Steve Smith to be stood down immediately by Cricket Australia, along with any other members of the team leadership group or coaching staff who had prior awareness of, or involvement in, the plan to tamper with the ball," the commission said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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