‘We are contemplating significant sanctions’ – Sutherland
Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft will leave South Africa on Wednesday in the wake of their pre-meditated plan to tamper with the ball on the third day of the Cape Town Test against South Africa. They will be told of their “significant” Cricket Australia code of behaviour sanctions within 24 hours.
However the investigation of the CA head of integrity, Iain Roy, found that the coach Darren Lehmann had no prior knowledge of the ball-tampering plan. This is despite the fact he was captured on television footage sending a message to Bancroft via the 12th man Peter Handscomb, leading to Bancroft attempting to hide the adhesive tape he had been using to rough up the ball. James Sutherland, the CA chief executive, said Lehmann would remain under contract and had not resigned his post.
Australia named Matt Renshaw, Glenn Maxwell and Joe Burns as replacements for the fourth Test in Johannesburg starting on Friday. Wicketkeeper Tim Paine, who led the team on the fourth day of the Newlands Test after Smith and Warner were stood down as captain and vice-captain, becomes the Test team’s 46th leader but his further tenure will depend on the sanctions handed to Smith and Warner. The team, still reeling from events of the past few days and the Australian public’s furious response, will not train at the Wanderers on Wednesday despite the Test beginning on Friday.
“I think it’s an issue of great proportion because of the standing of cricket in the eyes of the Australian public and, not only that, the Australian cricket team and I think that response is not terribly surprising,” Sutherland said. “It’s a reminder of how important the game of cricket is to the Australian cricket fans, and it’s also a reminder to us how important it is to rebuild that confidence and trust and pride in the Australian cricket team going forward.”
The decision to send Smith, Warner and Bancroft home was taken by the CA Board and announced by Sutherland following tremendous pressure from back home, including from the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and the universal outrage of sponsors and followers of the game in Australia. Sutherland also apologised for the Australian team’s conduct at Newlands.
“From the Prime Minister down there have been views and opinions expressed, and that’s a measure and indication of the standing of the game of cricket and the Australian cricket team in the eyes of the Australian public and everyone is entitled to those opinions,” Sutherland said. “On balance, we need to make a judgement that’s in the best interests of the game and that will be based on a whole lot of things. The Prime Minister’s comments are one of only hundreds and thousands and millions of Australian views and opinions, and we need to make decisions that are in the best interests of the game.”
Sutherland said the CA investigation had found that only Smith, Warner and Bancroft had been in on the plot to tamper with the ball, and would be sanctioned accordingly. Should the players challenge their charges of conduct contrary to the laws and spirit of the game, hearings will be held with an independent commissioner, in which they will be entitled to legal representation.
In making this finding, Roy confirmed the strong contentions of the bowlers Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon that they had no knowledge of the plan, and also contradicted the apparent version of events delivered by Warner, which suggested far wider knowledge within the dressing room. Sutherland said he was “not aware” of differences in the team about what had happened and was “unsure of the relevance” of it.
The leadership group knew about the tampering – Smith
“In view of the broader reputational and integrity issues involved, the sanctions that will be contemplated are significant,” Sutherland said. “The process must therefore be thorough to ensure that all relevant issues have been examined. I understand the appetite for urgency given the reputation of Australia as a sporting nation has been damaged in the eyes of many.
“However, urgency must be balanced with due process given the serious implications for all involved. In addition to sanctions for individuals, Cricket Australia will initiate an independent review into the conduct and culture of our Australian men’s teams. We will have more to say about this review in the coming days, but it will be conducted by an expert panel who will report to the Cricket Australia Board.”
Sutherland said CA would use this as an opportunity to “review the culture and conduct of our international teams”. “If this has damaged ability of kids to play the game, love the game and idolise their heroes, it is a sorry state and we need to do everything we can to address it,” he said. But he would not address whether or not Lehmann was the man to mentor the team in making this change, having become synonymous with the caustic way in which they have played the game over the past five years.
The ball-tampering incident took place during the afternoon session on day three of the Cape Town Test and was picked up on by TV cameras. A small, yellow object was seen in Bancroft’s hands after he had worked on the ball, which he later revealed was adhesive tape with soil particles on it. He was also captured taking the tape from his pocket and placing it down his trousers.
The footage showed Bancroft rubbing the rough side of the ball, the opposite side to which he would usually be trying to shine on his trousers. He put the object down his pants after being spoken to by Handscomb, who had come on to the field after speaking to Lehmann over a walkie talkie. Lehmann seemed to speak to Handscomb after footage of Bancroft working on the ball was shown on the TV screens at the ground.
The umpires Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth were then seen speaking with Bancroft, though they did not choose to change the ball or penalise the Australians five runs – the statutory on-field penalty for illegally changing the condition of the ball. When Bancroft spoke to the umpires, he was shown holding a bigger, black cloth rather than the small yellow object he had earlier seemed to place down his trousers.
Smith and Bancroft owned up to the offence at the press conference after play on the third day, sparking off the chain of events that culminated in the three Australians being sent home ahead of the final Test against South Africa. The CA chairman, David Peever, said the saga was about far more than the technical details of the ball tampering itself.
“We understand and share the anger of fans and the broader Australian community about the events that unfolded in Cape Town on Saturday,” he said. “This issue goes beyond the technical nature of the offences and various codes of conduct. It is about the integrity and reputation of Australian cricket and Australian sport. Ultimately, it is about whether Australians can feel proud of their national sporting teams. That depends as much on the way the players conduct themselves, as it does about winning or losing.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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