CAPE TOWN – Under-fire Australian captain Steve Smith is set to learn his fate with regards to the Newlands ball-tampering incident on Tuesday night.
In a move that shows how seriously Cricket Australia are taking the ball-tampering saga, chief executive James Sutherland announced on Monday that he will also travel to South Africa to meet other officials who are investigating the matter.
The organisation’s executive general manager of team performance, Pat Howard, and head of integrity and senior legal counsel Iain Roy were expected to arrive in Cape Town on Monday morning to find out what led to opener Cameron Bancroft using yellow tape to gather dirt to rub on to the ball on Saturday during the third Test against the Proteas.
His actions led to the Aussies producing prodigious reverse swing in the afternoon, but after being caught on TV shoving the tape into the front of his pants, Bancroft produced a sunglass pouch when questioned by umpires Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth about the incident.
Bancroft and skipper Smith owned up to ball-tampering after play, with Smith saying that the “leadership group” had concocted the idea during the lunch break in order to generate reverse swing quicker.
The 28-year-old World No 1 batsman was given a one-match suspension by the ICC and fined 100% of his match fee, as well as receiving four demerit points, while Bancroft got three demerit points and a 75% fine.
But the sanctions have been met with outrage in the cricketing world, and it appears as if Cricket Australia are going to mete out much harsher punishment.
There has been speculation on social media that Smith could even face a life ban, or at the very least be stripped of the captaincy on a permanent basis, after he and vice-captain David Warner stood down from their leadership roles for what turned out to be the final day of the Newlands Test on Sunday.
Wicket-keeper Tim Paine was tasked with being the skipper, but the Australians crumbled with the bat to be dismissed for just 107 in a 322-run defeat.
Sutherland will fly to Johannesburg and meet with Howard and Roy on Tuesday. “Iain Roy and Pat Howard arrive in Cape Town this morning (Monday) local time, and Iain will immediately conduct his inquiries around the specifics of the ball-tampering incident,” he said.
“I am travelling to Johannesburg this evening and will arrive Tuesday morning local time to meet Iain to understand the findings of the investigation to that point, and to determine recommended outcomes.
“We know Australians want answers and we will keep you updated on our findings and next steps as a matter of urgency.”
Cricket Australia chairman David Peever confirmed in the statement that the findings of the investigation will be made public on Wednesday Australian time (Tuesday evening SA time).
“The Cricket Australia Board has been fully updated on the issue and supports James travelling to South Africa to manage the response to the investigation currently under way,” Peever said.
“We expect to be able to fully update the Australian public on the findings on Wednesday morning (Tuesday evening in Johannesburg).
“We understand that everyone wants answers, but we must follow our due diligence before any further decisions are made.”