Steve Smith’s future as Australia captain in doubt after ball-tampering furore
Pressure is continuing to mount on Australia’s skipper over the ball-tampering controversy.
Steve Smith’s future as Australia’s Test captain is under intense scrutiny as investigations continue into cricket’s ball-tampering scandal.
Questions are also being asked as to whether Smith and his team-mates may have employed illegal tactics in the recent Ashes victory over England.
Smith has been banned from the fourth and final Test against South Africa which starts on Friday, as well as being fined his entire match fee for the third Test against South Africa by the International Cricket Council. Many are now convinced his role as captain has become untenable.
Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive James Sutherland is set to arrive in South Africa on Tuesday “to determine recommended outcomes”.
CA’s head of integrity Iain Roy and Pat Howard, head of team performance, are due to land in Cape Town on Monday morning to begin an investigation into events during Saturday’s play and Sutherland intends to discover exactly what happened “as a matter of urgency”.
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.”
Criticism in the wake of Cameron Bancroft’s attempt to manipulate the ball with sticky tape and debris from the pitch has reached Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who called on CA to take “decisive action”.
Whether England suffered at the hands of prohibited actions has become a burning question too.
Social media footage on Sunday showed Bancroft appearing to put sugar in his pocket during a break in play on day two of the final Ashes Test in Sydney.
CA would not comment when asked if that incident and series – which England lost 4-0 – would be reviewed.
England bowler Stuart Broad said he had no reason to suspect Australia employed illegal tactics against them, but is struggling to work out why they have chosen to do so in South Africa.
“I saw Steve Smith in his press conference say it’s the first time they’ve tried it – which to me, it’s surprising why they’d change a method that’s been working,” he said.
“Look at the Ashes series we’ve just played, all those Test matches, and they’ve reverse-swung the ball sometimes in conditions you wouldn’t expect it to.”
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.
If you only get a 1 Match ban and hit with a fine over admitting to cheating as an International Captain!! ... If the ICC are going by their list of sanctions against certain actions I think it’s time they were updated ... #SAvAUS— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) March 25, 2018
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.”
Meanwhile, the condemnation continued in a statement from the Australia Sports Commission, the lead Government agency responsible for Australian sport, which said Smith should be removed as captain immediately.
A statement from the chairman John Wylie, the ASC board and chief executive Kate Palmer, issued before Smith and Warner stood down, read: “Given the admission by Australian captain Steve Smith, the ASC calls for him to be stood down immediately by Cricket Australia, along with any other members of the team leadership group or coaching staff who had prior awareness of, or involvement in, the plan to tamper with the ball.”
Meanwhile Smith’s status as captain of Rajasthan Royals is also in doubt after the Indian Premier League franchise issued a robust statement insisting their “zero tolerance” approach to cheating “applies to everyone in our team”.
Smith and vice-captain David Warner stepped down from their roles for the fourth day of play in the third Test, in which a deflated Australia collapsed to defeat by 322 runs.
They've set themselves as this higher than high, this pious team who look down at everyone and set the benchmark for what is right and wrong in cricket, when everyone who's played against them knows that's an absolute joke. Graeme Swann
Tim Paine was promoted to captain for the day, saying at the post-match press conference that Smith and Bancroft were “struggling” after “an absolutely horrible 24 hours”.
He added: “I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise.”
Former Australia Test star Jason Gillespie accused Smith of playing a part in “pre-planned” cheating, adding in an article in the Guardian: “Steve Smith’s time as Australia captain is surely up.”
And ex-England spinner Graeme Swann told BBC Radio Five Live: “You have to remember that this Australia team are so friendless in cricket because of the way they’ve carried on, and especially Warner.
“They’ve set themselves as this higher than high, this pious team who look down at everyone and set the benchmark for what is right and wrong in cricket, when everyone who’s played against them knows that’s an absolute joke.”