Watch: Ex-Australia cricket captain Steve Smith breaks down in tears as he apologises for cheating scandal
Former Australia captain claims he is ‘devastated’ by the scandal and that he will ‘regret this for the rest of my life’ after being banned from cricket for a year
Former Australia cricket captain Steve Smith broke down in tears during a press conference after apologising for the ball-tampering scandal that has resulted in him being banned from international cricket for a year.
Smith was part of a three-man plan to cheat during the third Test against South Africa last weekend, with vice-captain David Warner being blamed by Cricket Australia for orchestrating the incident that lead to young batsman Cameron Bancroft rubbing sandpaper on the ball in an illegal attempt to artificially produce reverse swing.
Having been caught on television cameras, Bancroft attempted to hide the sandpaper down his trousers, and after a full investigation was carried out by Cricket Australia, all three players have been banned from international and state cricket – both Smith and Warner received one-year bans while Bancroft was handed a nine-month suspension.
Smith flew back from Johannesburg to Sydney on Thursday and held a press conference soon after his arrival, in which he gave a tearful statement before inviting questions from the media.
"I know I will regret this for the rest of my life. I am absolutely gutted. I'm sorry and I'm absolutely devastated,” Smith said.
"To my knowledge this has never happened before. This is the first time I've seen this happen and I can assure you it will never happen again.
"I don't blame anyone. I'm the captain of the Australian team, it's on my watch and I take responsibility for what happened in Cape Town last Saturday.
"I know I'll regret this for the rest of my life, I'm absolutely gutted. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness.
"I've been so privileged and honoured to represent my country and captain Australia. Cricket is the greatest game in the world and it's been my life - I hope it can be again. I'm absolutely devastated."
Already emotional, Smith began to tear up as the media began asking him questions surrounding the incident, and when asked what message he would send to children who aspire to be an international cricket player, Smith started to answer before completely breaking down.
"I'll say two things... three things. Firstly, I'm deeply sorry, I love the game of cricket, I love entertaining young kids, I love kids wanting to play the great game of cricket that I love.
"The two other things is: any time you think about making a questionable decision, think about who you're affecting. You're affecting your parents and to see the way my old man's been... it hurts."
The reference to his parents triggered Smith to pause and start crying again, before he added: "I can't remember what else."
"I just want to say I'm sorry for the pain that I guess I've brought to Australia and the fans and the public. It's devastating and I'm truly sorry."
Smith’s tearful appearance came after Bancroft held a press conference of his own in Perth to apologise for his actions and decisions, and also to admit that he lied in his initial press conference last Saturday when he said that he had rubbed sticky tape covered in dirt on the ball and not sandpaper, as it transpired to be.
Warner also issued a statement to apologise for his actions that he admitted were a “stain on the game”, although the former vice-captain posted it on Twitter rather than hold a press conference like his two teammates.
While many called for all three players to be banned, the length and severity of the suspensions has triggered some surprise and sympathy in the cricket world. Both Smith and Warner have lost their places in the Indian Premier League this season after organisers decided to kick them out of the competition, while Bancroft is unlikely to be able to play for Somerset in this year’s county championship season.
The Australian Cricketers’ Association [ACA] has also weighed in on the matter by claiming that Cricket Australia’s investigation process displayed a number of “glaring and clear anomalies” and questioned the decision to put Bancroft and Smith up in front of the media so soon after the incident took place – although others believe that it was right for the players involved to front up and take responsibility for what they had done.
"It is right that these mistakes are sanctioned, and that must occur in a fair and proper way,” the ACA said in a statement.
"The national game we all love must always demonstrate standards and behaviours consistent with both the rules, and the spirit, of cricket.
"And the game must be supported by rigorous and fair processes.
"There are a number of glaring and clear anomalies in the process to date which causes the ACA to query the severity and proportionality of the proposed sanctions."
All three players have a week to appeal the bans if they believe that they do not represent a fair punishment for the offences committed, meaning that any decision must be taken by next Wednesday.
Independent News Service