Steve Smith stands down as Rajasthan Royals captain after ball-tampering furore
The 28-year-old’s position as Australia skipper is also under intense scrutiny.
Australia captain Steve Smith has stood down as skipper of the Rajasthan Royals as the furore surrounding cricket’s latest ball-tampering row deepens.
Smith said he had taken the decision “in the best interest” of the Indian Premier League franchise ahead of the new season, which starts next week.
The 28-year-old’s future as leader of the national team is also under intense scrutiny as investigations continue into events during Australia’s third Test defeat against South Africa in Cape Town.
Smith has already been banned from the fourth Test, which begins on Friday, by the International Cricket Council after admitting trying to change the condition of the ball.
The scandal came to light on Saturday after Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera hiding sticky tape, which he had used to manipulate the ball with debris from the pitch, down his trousers.
Smith will be replaced as Royals captain by Ajinkya Rahane.
Rajasthan Royals appoint @ajinkyarahane88 as the captain for #IPL2018— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) March 26, 2018
“The game is bigger than any individual and we hold this thought close to our heart.”- Manoj Badale , the co-owner of Rajasthan Royals
Read more: https://t.co/qBQbgUFb2u pic.twitter.com/iy3sMVWlc1
Royals head of cricket Zubin Bharucha said: “The incident in Cape Town has certainly disturbed the cricket world.
“Steve believes given the current circumstances, ‘It’s in the best interest of the Rajasthan Royals that he steps down as captain so the team can get ready for the start of the IPL without the ongoing distractions’.”
Co-owner Manoj Badale said: “Rajasthan Royals will do everything possible to protect the values and the integrity of the game.
“We agree with Steve’s decision to step down as captain, and we are fortunate to have such a capable successor with Ajinkya Rahane.
“It is important that all cricket fans retain a balanced perspective on the situation. What happened in South Africa was clearly wrong, especially given that it appears to have been premeditated.
“That said, this will be a difficult time for Steve as well, given how much he cares about the game.”
Cricket Australia (CA) is conducting an investigation “as a matter of urgency”.
Chief executive James Sutherland is due to arrive in South Africa on Tuesday, while head of integrity Iain Roy and Pat Howard, head of team performance, are also due to land in Cape Town.
Sutherland said: “We know Australians want answers and we will keep you updated on our findings and next steps, as a matter of urgency.”
The affair has reached a high level with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calling on CA to take “decisive action”.
Questions are also being asked as to how long such malpractice has been going on and whether England might have suffered during last winter’s Ashes series.
Social media footage emerged on Sunday showing Bancroft appearing to put sugar in his pocket during a break in play on day two of the final Ashes Test in Sydney.
CA did not comment when asked if that incident and the series, which England lost 4-0, would be reviewed.
England bowler Stuart Broad, speaking on Sunday, said he had no reason to suspect Australia employed illegal tactics against them, but was struggling to work out why they have chosen to do so in South Africa.
CA also clarified that all of the Australia Test squad were currently in South Africa to help with the investigation after there had been reports that Smith had flown home.
A statement read: “Cricket Australia can confirm that all members of the touring Test squad currently remain in South Africa.
“At this stage, players will remain in South Africa to assist CA with inquiries.”