CAPE TOWN – Legendary former Australian captain Steve Waugh has spoken for the first time about the ball-tampering scandal that has engulfed the team, saying that the decision to use a foreign object to change the condition of the ball was a “serious error of judgement”.
The under-fire Australian side arrived in Johannesburg on Tuesday afternoon ahead of the final Test against the Proteas at the Wanderers, which starts on Friday.
But before a ball will be bowled, the immediate future of Australian cricket is expected to be determined on Tuesday night South African time.
A Cricket Australia investigation into events that led to Cameron Bancroft using what he described as “yellow tape” at Newlands on Saturday – to gather ground particles from the pitch in order to rough up the ball, as part of the plot to generate reverse swing earlier in the innings – has been taking place over the last two days.
Cricket Australia’s chief executive James Sutherland will meet up with the team in Johannesburg, with head of integrity Iain Roy having spoken to the players and coaches in Cape Town, and the two officials will discuss the matter with high-performance manager Pat Howard and board chairman David Peever.
Respected former skipper Waugh took to Facebook on Tuesday to express his views on the whole saga.
“Like many I’m deeply troubled by the events in Cape Town this last week, and acknowledge the thousands of messages I have received, mostly from heartbroken cricket followers worldwide,” Waugh wrote.
“The Australian Cricket team has always believed it could win in any situation against any opposition, by playing combative, skilful and fair cricket, driven by our pride in the fabled Baggy Green.
“I have no doubt the current Australian team continues to believe in this mantra, however some have now failed our culture, making a serious error of judgement in the Cape Town Test Match.
“In 2003, we modified the Spirit of Cricket document originally created by the M.C.C., to empower our players to set their own standards and commit to play the Australian way.
“We must urgently revisit this document, re-bind our players to it and ensure the Spirit in which we play is safe-guarded for the future of the sport, and to continue to inspire the dreams of every young kid picking up a bat and ball and for every fan who lives and breathes the game.
“A focused and balanced perspective is needed in the condemnation on those involved in this, with a clear and critical consideration to the social impact and mental health of all players.
“I will support all positive action to ensure an outcome for the betterment of the game, regaining the trust and faith of every fan of cricket.
Sutherland said on Monday that the organisation intend making an announcement on Tuesday evening, with reports from the UK and Australia indicating that coach Darren Lehmann will step down, and captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner set to be suspended for between six months and a year.
Smith, who confessed to the cheating ploy with Bancroft at Newlands on Saturday evening, said the “leadership group” concocted the ball-tampering idea at lunch, and insisted that Lehmann did not know of the plan.
But Warner is seen by many as the chief instigator – especially with his fingers heavily plastered during the series.
There have even been allegations that Warner has inserted sandpaper in-between the bandages in help rough up the ball, although the Australian camp have not commented on that, while Fox Sports in Australia reported today that Warner had left a team Whatsapp group.