Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft have been suspended by Cricket Australia for the fourth Test in Johannesburg for their involvement in the ball-tampering scandal.
CRICKET Australia CEO James Sutherland has said just three players knew about the ball-tampering plan beforehand, absolving other team members from responsibility.
“The key finding is that prior knowledge was limited to three players, Steve Smith, David Warner, Cameron Bancroft,” said the CA chief. “No other players or support staff had prior knowledge. This includes Darren Lehmann, who despite inaccurate media reports, has not resigned from his position.
After a CA investigation, all three players were found guilty of breaching article 2.3.5 of Cricket Australia’s Code of Conduct and will fly home from South Africa on Wednesday.
Smith has also been stripped of the captaincy for at least the final Test in South Africa, with Tim Paine endorsed by the board as his successor and Australia’s 46th Test captain after he acted in the role on day four in Cape Town.
Queensland pair Matthew Renshaw and Joe Burns, and Victoria’s Glenn Maxwell have been called up as replacements for the banned trio and will arrive in South Africa in the next 24 hours. The Australians will not train in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
“Earlier today (Tuesday), I received an update about the investigation being conducted by our Head of Integrity Iain Roy and in conducting his interviews he was accompanied by two ICC integrity officers,” Sutherland told reporters in Johannesburg.
“While that investigation is not complete, preliminary findings have been considered and discussed by the CA board earlier today.
“He will continue to coach the Australian men’s team under his current contract.”
Sutherland said that Smith, Warner and Bancroft have been charged with CA Code of Conduct breaches and added their respective, “significant” sanctions will be revealed in the next 24 hours.
“The players involved have officially been reported for breaching Cricket Australia’s code of conduct under article 2.3.5.,” Sutherland said.
“The substance of the offence can be covered by terms and I paraphrase somewhat from the article: Conduct at any time that is contrary to the spirit of the game, unbecoming of a representative, harmful to the interests of the game, or brings the game into disrepute.
“Once the investigation has concluded in the next 24 hours, sanctions will be announced and will go through the Cricket Australia code of conduct process.”
Smith had already been suspended for the final Test at The Wanderers by International Cricket Council CEO David Richardson on Sunday, while Bancroft was fined and handed three demerit points to his disciplinary record.
All three players now face lengthy bans from international cricket. The incident that led to the suspensions took place during South Africa’s innings on Saturday afternoon when Bancroft was seen on television holding a foreign object while rubbing the ball, before hiding the object in his pocket, then inside his trousers.
As soon as the incident was shown on the big screen, the player was questioned in the presence of his captain by the two on-field umpires, Richard Illingworth and Nigel Llong, who along with third umpire Ian Gould and fourth umpire Allahudien Palekar, later charged Bancroft.
The umpires inspected the ball at that time and elected not to replace the ball and award a five-run penalty as they could not see any marks that suggested the condition of the ball had been changed as a direct result of Bancroft’s actions. The umpires, though, agreed that Bancroft’s actions were likely to alter the condition of the ball and he was therefore charged.
The plan to alter the condition of the ball had been made at the lunch break on day three between senior players from Australia without the consent of the coaching staff, according to Smith.
Bancroft, who was said to be in the vicinity of the senior players at lunch, was tasked to use the foreign item – a piece of yellow tape that was used to collect chunks of dislodged pitch – and was caught doing so.
Match referee Andy Pycroft said: “To carry a foreign object on to the field of play with the intention of changing the condition of the ball to gain an unfair advantage over your opponent is against not only the Laws, but the Spirit of the game as well.
“That said, I acknowledge that Cameron has accepted responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty to the charge and apologising publicly. As a young player starting out in international cricket, I hope the lessons learned from this episode will strongly influence the way he plays the game during the rest of his career.”
Smith has not missed a Test since March 2013 in India, a streak of 59 matches in which he scored 23 Test centuries, was handed the Test captaincy and ascended to the top of the Test batting rankings.
He fronted the media on Saturday night and confessed his regret and part in the wrongdoing.
“Obviously, today was a big mistake on my behalf and on the leadership group’s behalf as well,” he said.
“But I take responsibility as the captain, I need to take control of the ship, but this is certainly something I’m not proud of and something that I hope I can learn from and come back strong from.
“I am embarrassed to be sitting here talking about this.”
Australia squad for next match : Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, Matt Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.