WATCH: Australia launches investigation as 'embarrassed' captain Steve Smith admits orchestrated ball-tampering
Cricket Australia is coming under fire for failing to take immediate action against Steve Smith after he confessed the team management decided to cheat by tampering with the ball in the third test against South Africa.
The governing body said instead it would conduct an investigation into the Cape Town scandal, which has prompted calls for Smith to step down.
Australian cricket was landed in its biggest crisis for years when Cameron Bancroft was caught by television cameras trying to scuff up the ball with tape. He hid the tape down his trousers when questioned by the umpires, who did not change the ball. But in an extraordinary end-of-play press conference Bancroft admitted ball-tampering and Smith revealed it was the idea of the team management during the lunch break.
“The leadership group knew about it. We spoke about it (ball-tampering) at lunch. I am not proud of what has happened. It is not in the spirit of the game, not in line with my integrity, the team’s integrity. The leadership group’s integrity has come into question and rightly so. It is not on. It won’t happen again under my leadership I can promise you that,” said Smith.
“We saw this game as such an important game. We have seen the ball reversing quite a lot throughout this series and our ball just did not look like it was going to go. That is a mistake on our behalf again. It is such poor actions and deeply regrettable.
"I still think I’m the right person for the job. I need to take control of the ship. This is certainly something I’m not proud of. I’m embarrassed to be sitting here talking about this."
Smith and head coach Darren Lehmann are under huge pressure to step down or be sacked.
Cricket Australia said it would send an investigative team to South Africa to look into all aspects before deciding what action to take.
Calling it a "very sad day for Australian cricket," Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said on Sunday he was "extremely disappointed and shocked" by the news.
"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.
"One of the unique things about the game of cricket, is it is to be played not only within the laws of the game, but in the spirit of the game. And, activities on the field yesterday, are neither within the laws of the game or the spirit of the game."
Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister, later said he had called Cricket Australia and wanted "decisive action, soon".
"Our cricketers are role models and cricket is synonymous with fair play, Mr Turnbull said. "How can our team be engaged in cheating like this? It beggars belief."
Cricket Australia has taken a strong line on player behaviour in the Big Bash to protect the reputation of its family friendly multi-million dollar tournament and will be facing pressure to show it has the stomach to take a tough line against its Test team. The position of Australia Test captain carries great prestige and is often described as the second most important job in the country behind being prime minister.
The match referee, Jeff Crowe, has charged Bancroft with trying to alter the conditions of the ball, but now must decide whether to take action against Smith as well.
Ball tampering is actually quite a minor offence in the playing regulations. It only carriers a maximum one Test ban but it is the reputational damage for Smith and Australia that could have wider ramifications.
“We had a discussion during the break and on myself I took an opportunity to use some tape, get some granules from the rough patches on the wicket and try to change the ball condition,” said Bancroft, who is playing in only his eighth Test. “It did not work. The umpires did not change the ball but once I was cited on the screens I panicked quite a lot and that resulted in me shoving it down my long trousers.”
Cricket Australia wrote to Cricket South Africa complaining about abuse from fans during this Test while South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada has been punished for send offs.