Smith treatment is over the top – Shane Warne
Australia returned to the field for the first time since the ball-tampering scandal for the opening day of the fourth Test in Johannesburg.
Former Australia spinner Shane Warne has hit out at the “disgraceful” treatment of Steve Smith by the media, stressing that the sacked captain “isn’t Pablo Escobar”.
A new-look Australia team returned to the field for the first time since the ball-tampering scandal on the opening day of the fourth Test against South Africa in Johannesburg.
However, Tim Paine’s side struggled to make an impact on Friday at the Wanderers, where Proteas opener Aiden Markram scored a century.
Smith and former vice-captain Warner have both been banned from international and domestic cricket for 12 months by Cricket Australia, while Cameron Bancroft was hit with a nine-month suspension for his hands-on role in the debacle at Cape Town.
On Thursday, Smith and Bancroft, now back in Australia, both made emotionally-charged statements in further public apologies before coach Darren Lehmann also fought back tears as he announced his resignation once the Test match concludes at the Wanderers.
Warner, the instigator of the affair, published a short tweet before later making a brief statement to waiting reporters as he and his wife carried their two young children through Sydney airport.
Cricket New South Wales have since announced Warner is scheduled to face the media for the first time at 1am BST on Saturday morning in Sydney.
Warne, who took 708 wickets in 145 Tests, believes the media storm which the men have faced spiralled out of control.
“He (Smith) isn’t Pablo Escobar,” Warne said to Sky Sports Cricket, referencing the Colombian drug lord known as the “King of Cocaine”.
“He didn’t kill anyone. He’s a guy that’s made a mistake. To see him being man-handled at airports, to see him attacked, it is like the dogs are all over him.
“I think it is a disgraceful behaviour from them. I think the way he has fronted up to the media has been completely honest, he has been up front and he has been emotional.
“You can see how much it means to him, breaking down at press conferences, and that’s because he’s feeling for the mistake he has made. He’s paid the consequences which I think has been way over the top.
“I think it is partly because the (Australian) Prime Minister (Malcolm Turnbull) has come out and said ‘this is ridiculous what’s happening’.
“I don’t think the punishment fits the crime. The way the Australian media have handled it, they should be taken to task too. It’s been disgraceful.”
After Darren Lehmann announced his resignation, here are the leading contenders to replace him as coach of the Australian cricket team https://t.co/HrSfVYZWpV— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) March 30, 2018
Following the conclusion of the South Africa tour, Australia will not be back in action until a limited-overs tour of England in June.
Who will be in charge of the squad remains to be seen, with Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland insisting there would be no rushed appointment for Lehmann’s successor.
Warne revealed he would be “happy” to help out the beleaguered Baggy Greens.
“I like being involved and I am passionate. I’m happy to be involved, whether it’s the coaching, head coach position. Whether I’m going to put my hand up, I’m not sure,” the 48-year-old said.
Peter Handscomb, Matthew Renshaw and Joe Burns replaced Smith, Warner and Bancroft in Australia’s side for the fourth Test.
Chadd Sayers also came in for a Test debut in place of injured paceman Mitchell Starc, who has suffered a stress fracture in his leg and will not now play for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League.
Wicketkeeper Paine was captain, as he had been for the final day of the Cape Town Test, and admitted it had been a “difficult week” for the Australia team.
South Africa, who lead 2-1 in the ill-tempered four-match series, made a solid start after winning the toss and electing to bat on a slow pitch.
Although Australia removed Dean Elgar for 19 and, after lunch, Hashim Amla for 27, opener Markram remained composed on the way to a fourth century in just 10 Tests to see South Africa to 177 for two at tea.