JOHANNESBURG - The disgraced trio of Australian cricketers involved in the ball-tampering scandal, which has rocked the sport, not only cheated but lied and then tried to cover up their lies, an investigation by Cricket Australia (CA) found.
Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were thrown out of the Aussie squad this week, and left the country on Wednesday. Smith and Warner, captain and vice-captain respectively, were banned from playing for their country and state for 12 months, while Bancroft, the most inexperienced of the three, was banned for nine months.
In addition, Smith won’t be considered for the position of captain for a period of two years and Warner won’t be considered for team leadership positions in the future at all.
All would be allowed to play club cricket, while CA also stated the trio would be “required to undertake 100 hours of voluntary service in community cricket”.
Smith and Bancroft were levelled with five charges under CA’s code of conduct, while Warner faced eight charges. The trio have seven days to appeal against the sanctions.
CA chief executive James Sutherland also admitted that the element used to tamper with the ball during the third day of the Test at Newlands was sandpaper, not tape.
The sandpaper was supposed to be used for the players’ bats.
The CA investigation found that Warner concocted the plan, and then instructed a junior player (Bancroft) to carry it out. Warner was also charged with providing advice to a junior player “regarding how a ball could be artificially altered, including demonstrating how it could be done”, and then with lying to match officials about his role and failing to voluntarily acknowledge it.
Smith and Bancroft were also charged with misleading the match officials on the field when they tried to conceal the tampering.
The pair, when they addressed the media in Cape Town on Saturday evening, also weren’t forthcoming with the whole truth, even though they were praised in many circles for fronting up when they were caught out.
“There was an element of courage in owning up to what happened; there was also unfortunately an element of mistruth in that process. And that was taken into consideration by the board when determining the sanctions,” said Sutherland.
The CA chief said he spoke to the three players before their departure. “They are very sad, disappointed, remorseful for what has happened.”
After failing to acknowledge it on Tuesday, when he first announced that the three would be sanctioned, Sutherland eventually conceded that what the trio did in Cape Town amounted to cheating. “Under the code, that specifically refers to these practices in which we have made the charges (the word) ‘cheating’ is appropriate in the circumstances,” he said.
The role of coach Darren Lehmann was also clarified, with Sutherland explaining that the TV footage showing him speaking into a walkie-talkie as the incident unfolded was not Lehmann warning the players. “In his defence, he sent out a message to say ‘What the hell is going on here?’ - but he didn’t use the word ‘hell’, he used a different word.”
Sutherland said Iain Roy, head of CA’s integrity unit, who has been conducting the inquiry into the incident, told him he was satisfied Lehmann had nothing to do with it.
Proteas batsman Hashim Amla said he had sympathy for the Aussie players. “We know how hard cricket is. It’s a tough sport; international sport is tough. When things like this happen, definitely, we feel sympathetic towards a person who has made a mistake and has to pay the price for it,” he said.
South Africa’s players have been involved in ball tampering incidents on three occasions in the last five years, but the level of outrage that the current incident has caused would, said Amla, rattle players and administrators. “It gives every team in the world a reality check. It has probably given the ICC a lot more headaches.”