Sambit Bal: CA’s decision a reaction to public outrage
Steven Smith and David Warner, formerly captain and vice-captain of Australia, have been banned from playing international and domestic cricket for 12 months by Cricket Australia for their roles in the pre-meditated plan to tamper with the ball during the Cape Town Test. Warner is banned from captaincy for life, and Smith for 12 months after the completion of his ban. Cameron Bancroft, the player caught tampering with the ball, was banned from playing for nine months and from captaincy for 12 months after the completion of his ban.
CA has said that the plan was devised by Warner, the foreign object used was sandpaper, and that Bancroft and Smith lied publicly in their post-match press conference in referring to it as adhesive tape. The full charge sheet confirms a raft of misdeeds by the trio, under which they have been charged with conduct contrary to the spirit of the game, conduct unbecoming, conduct harmful to the interests of cricket, and conduct bringing the game into disrepute. The basis for these charges includes the following:
Warner developed the plan to alter the condition of the ball, instructed Bancroft in how to do it including making a demonstration of technique with sandpaper, and the misled the umpires by helping to conceal the plan.
Smith had prior knowledge of the plan and did not stop it, directed the plan’s concealment on the field once it became apparent that the team had been caught out on the big screen, and then made “misleading” public comments about the “nature, extent and participants” in the plan.
Bancroft had knowledge of the plan, took instruction as to its carrying out and then did so, before seeking to conceal the evidence and then to mislead the umpires as to what had taken place, and then joined Smith in making misleading public comments about what he had done.
All three players were told of their bans in person by the CA chief executive James Sutherland at the team hotel in Johannesburg on Wednesday morning. Smith left the team hotel to fly home soon afterwards. All players will have the right to challenge the verdicts and also the duration of their penalties via a CA code of behaviour hearing with an independent commissioner, who can also choose whether the hearing is public or private. Players at the hearing are permitted to call as many witnesses as they like and also to have legal representation.
Warner, who has been singled out as the architect of the plan and given the harshest penalty of the three, is expected to challenge the verdict and take the matter to a code of conduct hearing. It is not known what Smith and Bancroft intend to do – all three players have seven days to consider the charges and their intent to accept or challenge. All three players have been replaced in the squad ahead of the fourth Test against South Africa in Johannesburg.
“The sanctions we have announced are significant for the individuals involved. That is why the process has had to be thorough to ensure that all relevant issues have been examined,” Sutherland said. “I am satisfied that the sanctions in this case properly reflect a balance between the need to protect the integrity and reputation of the game, and the need to maintain the possibility of redemption for the individuals involved, all of whom have learned difficult lessons through these events.”
The CA chairman David Peever said that the Board had chosen to take a path that still allowed the players to eventually rebuild their careers. “The CA Board understands and shares the anger of fans and the broader Australian community about these events,” he said. “They go to the integrity and reputation of Australian cricket and Australian sport and the penalties must reflect that. These are significant penalties for professional players and the Board does not impose them lightly. It is hoped that following a period of suspension, the players will be able to return to playing the game they love and eventually rebuild their careers.”
While banned from international and first-class cricket, Smith, Warner and Bancroft are all permitted to play club cricket for the period of their bans “to maintain links with the cricket community”, and at the same time will be required to commit to 100 hours of voluntary service in community cricket.
WATCH – Smith leaves for Australia amid tight security
The ball-tampering incident took place during the afternoon session on day three at Newlands 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 claimed to be adhesive tape with soil particles on it. He was also captured taking the object 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 the substitute Peter Handscomb, who had come on to the field after speaking to Australia coach Darren 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 on-field 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, and while Warner was not initially at the forefront of the scandal, a view is emerging that he had hatched the idea to tamper the ball and delegated it to his opening partner Bancroft, with Smith’s approval. A preliminary Cricket Australia investigation said that no other players or staff had knowledge of the plan. Smith and Warner were stood down as Australia’s captain and vice-captain during the Newlands Test, and both players took the field on the fourth day under wicketkeeper Tim Paine’s leadership.
The ICC had already suspended Smith – who was fined 100% of his match fee and given four demerit points – from the fourth Test against South Africa, while Bancroft was given three demerit points and fined 75% of his match fee. There was no ICC sanction against Warner.
Smith and Warner had already stepped down from their positions as captains of the IPL franchises Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad, and have subsequently been banned from playing in the tournament.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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