Cricket Australia says it is considering significant sanctions against Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, but Darren Lehmann has not resigned as Australian men’s cricket head coach.
Smith, Warner and opener Bancroft have all been ordered home from South Africa in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal which has rocked the sport.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland insisted no other players or support staff had prior knowledge of the intention to tamper with the ball.
“This includes Darren Lehmann, who despite inaccurate media reports, has not resigned from his position,” he said.
“He will continue to coach the Australian men’s team under his current contract.”
Lehmann’s deal runs through to the 2019 Ashes series.
Wicket-keeper Tim Paine has been officially appointed as Test captain.
Sutherland said Smith, Warner and Bancroft had been officially reported for breaching article 2.3.5 of Cricket Australia’s Code of Conduct — for conduct contrary to the spirit of the game — with sanctions to be announced in the next 24 hours. All three are likely to face lengthy bans.
Batting trio Matthew Renshaw, Glenn Maxwell and Joe Burns will be flown in as replacements for the team.
“I want to stress we are contemplating significant sanctions in each case,” Sutherland said in the Johannesburg press conference.
“These sanctions will reflect the gravity with which we view what has occurred and the damage it has done to Australian cricket.
“I fully understand the appetite for urgency for more detail, however urgency must be balanced with due process given the serious implications for all involved.
“I am angry and disappointed. It is not a good day for Australian cricket.”
Sutherland coy on whether ball tampering is cheating
Cricket Australia is yet to complete its investigation into the incident, which took place during last week’s third Test in Cape Town.
Sutherland said the saga was extraordinarily bad for cricket, but repeatedly refused to say whether the attempts to alter the match ball constituted cheating.
He apologised to the Australian public and said he shared the anger and disappointment of cricket supporters, especially children who idolise the players.
And he said the pressure had taken a heavy toll on Steve Smith.
“He is destroyed, very upset,” Sutherland said.
Earlier this week, the International Cricket Council announced it would ban Smith for one match and fine him all of his match fee.
Bancroft was fined 75 per cent of his match fee and received three demerit points. But, it was not enough to satisfy critics of the team.
The ball-tampering scandal saw Bancroft attempt to hide a piece of tape from umpires after appearing to run it over the ball during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town.
The incident proved to be a crippling distraction for the team as they lost by a mammoth 322 runs at Newlands.
Smith initially confessed he and his leadership group instructed Bancroft to tamper with the ball on day three.
As vice-captain, Warner was a key cog in that leadership group. During his post-play press conference, Smith refused to “name names” when queried who in the leadership group discussed tampering with the ball.
But given the three players sent home, it would appear Smith’s phrasing referred to just himself and Warner.
The incident has also shaken the public’s trust in the team, for so long held up on a pedestal for its supposed hard-but-fair approach to the game.
Second chances on offer as replacements fly in
CA’s head of high performance Pat Howard headed to Johannesburg on Sunday morning to conduct a formal review of the incident. Sutherland joined him on Tuesday.
Paine was given the nod as stand-in skipper on day four as Australia lost 10 wickets in the final session at the hands of South Africa’s merciless bowlers.
Left-handed opener Renshaw hit the winning runs in an unbeaten 81 to help Queensland defeat Tasmania by nine wickets in the Sheffield Shield final.
Bancroft had replaced Renshaw as Warner’s opening partner ahead of the first Ashes Test in Brisbane last November.
Renshaw’s form had been patchy at that stage but he had been expected to keep his place after appearing in Australia’s previous 10 Tests.
Renshaw, who turns 22 on Wednesday, improved with the bat later in the Shield season, however, posting three centuries as the Bulls advanced to the final.
There are second-chances on offer too for Maxwell and Burns, with many feeling Maxwell in particular was hard done by to miss Ashes selection after scintillating Shield form.
Burns returns to the Test side for the first time since the doomed Hobart 2016 Test against South Africa, which saw Australia routed for 85 and 161.
Burns made 1 and 0 in that match, but will be hoping to add solidity and experience alongside Renshaw as a brand new opening pair.