CAPE TOWN – Former Proteas captain Graeme Smith has hit out at the one-match ban given to Australian captain Steve Smith, saying the International Cricket Council (ICC) has “missed a chance to lead the game”.
Smith is also upset that Australian opener Cameron Bancroft, who was caught on television tampering with the ball, had received the same punishment as Kagiso Rabada did for a shoulder charge on Steve Smith in the second Test.
Graeme Smith was reacting to the ICC decision to ban Steve Smith for one match - the governing body’s maximum penalty for ball tampering - following his admission on Saturday evening that the Australian team had orchestrated a plan to tamper with the ball during the third Test, which was won emphatically by the Proteas on Sunday.
The World’s No 1 batsman will not play the fourth and final Test later this week in Johannesburg, having, along with vice-captain David Warner, been stripped of his leadership duties earlier in the day by Cricket Australia, with wicket-keeper Tim Paine taking over the reins.
Bancroft, the player to actually tamper with the ball, was given three demerit points and fined 75% of his match fee after accepting the Level 2 charge.
“I think the ICC missed an opportunity to really handle this properly and lead our game. They haven’t done that. You have had two players, who have admitted guilt for cheating. I think that’s huge.” Graeme Smith exclusively told Independent Media.
“I can’t remember ever seeing a foreign object (on the field) to change the ball. The pictures are damning. I mean it shouldn’t be that Cricket Australia are setting the example. The ICC should be setting the example. I don’t know what the right ban is, but it shouldn’t be just one Test match.
One Test ban from @ICC for just the captain when they admitted a group came together and conspired to cheat the game?? Aussies must be giggling again! Assume @CricketAus will be far less lenient #sandpapergate
“Having captained before, every series you play, and every chance the ICC get to speak to you, they drum the spirit of the game down your neck. ‘You are responsible, you are the stakeholders.’ I can only assume since my retirement it is even more now. I think they should have taken a bit of time and made a decision that was a long-lasting standard so that no players will take that chance again.”
There has been an outcry all over South Africa that Bancroft, who was shown on the big screen trying to hide a yellow piece of tape down his trousers on Saturday afternoon after illegally trying to rub the ball, received the same punishment - three demerit points - for his offence as Kagiso Rabada did last week when the Proteas spearhead brushed Steve Smith’s shoulder in the second Test at Port Elizabeth.
Although Rabada had his Level 2 charge reduced to a Level 1 after a successful Cricket South Africa appeal led by Advocate Dali Mpofu, which allowed the 22-year-old to play at Newlands, the former Proteas skipper was still angry that the two incidents could be viewed in a similar light by the ICC.
A little birdie tells me that the weak ICC punishment isn’t anywhere near what Cricket Australia is thinking....
“I have no idea who is setting these standards. Who within the ICC is deciding what mistake is worse than the other? I cannot believe that someone using a foreign object, admitting pre-mediated guilt to cheating, gets less of a ban than a brush of a shoulder,” Smith said.
“There have been a lot of questions about the ICC in terms of where they are taking the game, where they are leading the game. They need to review their match referees and how those decisions are handled and the processes.”
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also weighed into the criticism of the cricket team’s behaviour.
“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 this is a shocking disappointment.”
Former Australian captain Michael Clarke said: “It’s a terrible day for Australian cricket. I can’t believe the leadership group have got a young kid playing in his eighth test match to do this.”
Former Australia wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist said: “Australian cricket is the laughing stock of the sporting world.”
All-time great spinner Shane Warne also weighed in.
“Disappointed in Steve Smith as captain to go out there and do that. It was un-Australian. I don’t care who you are you can’t tamper with the ball.”