CAPE TOWN – The ball-tampering furore that engulfed Newlands on Saturday has plunged Australian cricket into a crisis, with even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull “shocked and bitterly disappointed” by the cheating actions of captain Steve Smith and young opener Cameron Bancroft.
Smith and Bancroft admitted to the media at the conclusion of day three in the third Test against the Proteas that they deliberately hatched a plan to tamper with the ball, after being caught in the act by the television cameras.
Bancroft, who is playing only his eighth Test, was shown on TV tucking a yellow piece of tape into his trousers after illegally trying to tamper with the ball.
“It seemed completely beyond belief that the Australian cricket team had been involved in cheating,” Turnbull told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“After all, our cricketers are role models, and cricket is synonymous with fair play. How can our team be engaged in cheating like this? It beggars belief.
“I have to say that for the whole nation – who holds those who wear the Baggy Green up on a pedestal about as high as you can get in Australia – this is a shocking disappointment.”
Although Smith claimed in the immediate aftermath that he will not resign from the captaincy, as he still believed “I am the right person to lead the team”, that decision may ultimately be beyond his control.
Cricket Australia have launched a full investigation, especially due to Turnbull calling for the sport’s governing body to take “decisive action soon”.
“That can’t be the end of it, we have a responsibility to take this further and to understand more about the issue,” CA chief executive James Sutherland said at a press conference in Melbourne on Sunday.
“We are extremely disappointed and shocked at what we woke up to this morning, and we are dealing with this issue with the utmost urgency and seriousness.
“We certainly don’t have all of the evidence at hand, and we need someone to go over there and talk to the relevant people involved to understand what happened and the detail, and then we’ll make appropriate decisions as to the next step.”
Sutherland has, though, immediately sent a strong delegation including CA’s executive general manager of team performance Pat Howard, along with senior legal counsel and head of integrity Iain Roy, to South Africa to probe the ball-tampering incident.