The Australian cricket team is in danger of imploding over the cheating scandal that has rocked the sport following claims that the bowlers were ‘in’ on the plan to tamper with the ball in the third Test against South Africa at Cape Town.
A highly-placed source has told Wide World of Sports the bowlers were aware of the plan to use sticky tape on the ball to gain an edge over the Proteas, despite reports that spearheads Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood knew nothing about it and are fuming over being linked to the scandal.
“They knew about it – don’t worry about that,” the source says.
“You don’t have something like this happen and the whole team not know.
“Of course they are playing dumb about it – you can’t blame them.”
Smith has already admitted to hatching a plan with the leadership group for Cameron Bancroft to use sticky tape on the ball as they looked for an advantage with the series locked at 1-all.
Bancroft has also confessed to his role in the plot after he was busted by television cameras using sticky tape on the ball before shoving it down his pants during play on day three.
Smith’s decision to name the ‘leadership group’ – which reportedly includes Smith, vice-captain David Warner, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood – has already caused a split among the players.
Hazlewood and Starc are furious at being drawn into it and there are reports that at least one of the bowlers has contacted the Australian Cricketers’ Association to demand that Cricket Australia clarifies their lack of involvement.
Smith was stood down as skipper for the remainder of the third Test, while Warner also gave up his position as vice-captain, but it is almost certain that there will be more punishments to come when Cricket Australia concludes its investigation.
Both Smith and Warner are facing year-long bans, while Bancroft could also be suspended. there are reports that coach Darren Lehmann will resign over the scandal.
The scandal has already seen skipper Steve Smith banned for the fourth and final Test against South Africa at The Wanderers on Friday.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland is expected to address the media after flying to South Africa.
The other concern is the impact it could have on the team in the long run, particularly if the senior players are already divided over the blame game which has erupted following the scandal.
There are a number of players already in the mix to fill spots in the team including Glenn Maxwell, Matt Renshaw, Joe Burns, Travis Head and Hilton Cartwright.
Cricket Australia hopes to provide more information on Wednesday morning (AEDT) after it has been investigated by Cricket Australia’s Head of Integrity Iain Roy and executive general manager of team performance Pat Howard.