It is up to Australia now. Up to the men with power behind the baggy green cap they hold so dear to do what has to be done. Only sweeping action against the captain, coach and senior players who have let down their country will do.
There is no point leaving it to the International Cricket Council. The toothless governing body will never take the lead at a time of crisis – and goodness me what a crisis this has become – and do what is right for the battered old game.
A one-match ban for Steve Smith and a fine for Cameron Bancroft was the most the ICC could muster on Sunday as what started as a clumsy, comical attempt to tamper with the ball became one of the great cricketing scandals.
Cricket Australia must take sweeping action against Steve Smith and the senior players
One-match ban for Steve Smith and a fine for Cameron Bancroft was most ICC could muster
They will say they could do no more, that they are bound by a code of conduct that considers the emotive subject of artificially altering the condition of the ball as a ‘level two’ offence. They will continue to fiddle while Rome burns.
So Cricket Australia will have to see the bigger picture. They will have to ban Smith, his nasty little sidekick David Warner and the rest of the infamous leadership group for a year and they will have to sack coach Darren Lehmann.
But, much more than that, they will have to disband a culture that has made Australia the most hated cricket team in the world and start again. Then, if Smith, Warner et al do not comply when they return, they are finished in the game.
To follow events in South Africa and Melbourne from afar was to witness a juggernault gaining momentum at frightening speed.
If the sheer arrogance of an Australian captain who thought he was untouchable stopped him from realising the severity of his actions when he faced the cameras in Cape Town on Saturday then he was quickly made aware of just how big this is.
It only seems like yesterday Smith was being lauded as the greatest batsman since Bradman during an Ashes series Australia dominated but now he will always be remembered as the symbol of a team that hurtled out of control under his leadership. Now he will always be the cheat Steve Smith.
It only seems like yesterday Smith was lauded as the greatest batsman since Don Bradman
Cricket Australia must disband a culture that has made them the most hated team in the world
For this is about so much more than ball-tampering. That, really, is only the tip of the iceberg. The pre-meditated cheating on the third day of the third Test was a tipping point for all that has gone so badly wrong with the Australian team.
The reaction to the storm that engulfed Smith and his side from Australia and the wider world told him all he needed to know about what the game thinks about his unpleasant, pious regime.
Or at least it would if Smith and Warner had any self-awareness which clearly they do not because they had to be told to stand down as captain and deputy ahead of play on Sunday. They should have jumped before they were pushed.
Let’s take Australian reaction first. There was the sight of Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland, his voice crackling with emotion, emerging in Melbourne to say: ‘Australian fans want to be proud of their team. This morning they will wake up and not be proud. This is a sad day for Australian cricket.’
Then, significantly, came prime minister Malcolm Turnbull who left no room for doubt over what should happen next when he said: ‘I am shocked and bitterly disappointed by the news from South Africa.
‘It seems beyond belief that the Australian team have been involved in cheating. Our cricketers are role models.’
Well, the PM cannot have been watching too closely over the last couple of years if he is that shocked but the impact was unmistakable.
WHO DID WHAT IN AUSTRALIA’S BALL-TAMPERING SCANDAL?
Exactly who did what?
Rookie opener Cameron Bancroft has been fined 75 per cent of his match fee and handed three demerit points by the International Cricket Council after being charged with attempting to change the condition of the ball, contravening Law 41.3.
He admitted doing so by using some sticky tape from the team’s kit bag, sticking “granules” from the pitch to it and using it as an abrasive surface to scuff the ball in pursuit of reverse swing.
Captain Steve Smith said he and the “leadership group” had discussed and agreed the action. He stood down for the rest of the Test along with vice-captain David Warner, was handed a one-match suspension by the ICC and fined 100 per cent of his match fee.
Who else was in this leadership group?
Smith did not expand on that, but in the past Australia have indicated senior bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood were part of their decision-making unit. Tim Paine’s promotion as temporary skipper seems to absolve him. Head coach Darren Lehmann is an obvious authority figure but Smith insists he was not involved on this occasion.
Does that check out?
Lehmann did appear to speak to 12th man Peter Handscomb via walkie-talkie after TV images caught Bancroft red-handed. Handscomb later spoke to Bancroft, who proceeded to hide the tape down the front of his trousers. Explanations will be required.
Why was no on-field sanction taken?
First of all, Bancroft appeared to deceive the umpires by showing them the holder for his sunglasses instead of his ad-hoc sandpaper. Secondly, his attempts to change the ball simply appeared to be unsuccessful. The umpires looked at the ball and did not take the chance to replace it. Had they done so they could have levied five penalty runs against Australia.
Do they deserve some credit for fronting up?
Not particularly. Even after their plot was uncovered by cameras they made a clear attempt to put the officials off the scent on the field. Only after their guilt was established beyond any serious doubt did Smith and Bancroft appear before the media. Others may not have faced the music quite like that, but others may not have put themselves in that position in the first place.
How has Australia’s recent behaviour been other than this?
To sum up, they are not a popular bunch. They are regarded as the game’s most inveterate, though far from only, sledgers. Despite this they have attempted to position themselves as guardians of “the line” – a concept they used against South Africa in this ill-tempered series. Their reaction to England’s disciplinary lapses in the Ashes – notably when Bancroft and Smith gave a jovial press conference on the subject of Jonny Bairstow’s ‘headbutt’ greeting – saw them lobbing rocks from a sizeable glass house.
Have they done this before?
Smith was quick to emphasise this was a regrettable first-time offence but scepticism is natural. It could be argued previous transgressions would have been picked up in just the way this one was, but that is unlikely to prevent people poring over footage of recent series, including the Ashes.
By Rory Dollard, Press Association Sport
Reaction around the world shows what people think of this unpleasant, pious regime
Just as Glenn Hoddle was finished as England football manager once Tony Blair became involved in his particular scandal then Smith was finished as Australian captain.
Two other Australian voices stood out amid the noise that engulfed the game. Adam Gilchrist was the epitome of good sportsmanship during his outstanding career.
He was everything that was good about the greatest Australian team of them all before becoming an outstanding ambassador for the game. Now he recognised his team for what they are.
‘I’m shocked, stunned,’ said Gilchrist. ‘I’m not trying to over-dramatise this. I’m really emotional and saddened about it. And embarrassed. Australia cricket and the integrity of Australian cricket is the laughing stock of world sport.
‘We’re quick to damn nations that cheat and go against the rules. The underarm incident. Ok, that was against the spirit of the game but that was still a legal delivery in those days.
‘Now we’ve just had our national captain and team say they sat down and planned a way to cheat.’
Most poignant of all was the vastly experienced and respected Australian broadcaster Jim Maxwell, who broke down in tears on air as he was trying to make sense of what had unfurled in front of his eyes.
‘I don’t remember ever being as disappointed with an Australian team as this,’ said Maxwell before emotion overwhelmed him.
They will have to ban Smith, and his nasty little sidekick, opening batsman David Warner
Poor stand-in captain Tim Paine, meanwhile, described as the ‘only decent bloke in the team’ by one observer close to Australian cricket and handed a poisoned chalice of taking over the reins for the last knockings of the third Test won comprehensively by South Africa on Sunday, had to apologise to a nation after their capitulation to heavy defeat at Newlands.
While there was shame in Australia there was anger and condemnation from some of the biggest figures in the world game and more than a little schadenfreude about ‘mother cricket’ coming back to bite its most bitter protagonists.
Matt Prior for one could be forgiven for enjoying the fact that Nathan Lyon, who launched a totally unprovoked attack on the former England wicketkeeper before the last Ashes, was implicated in the leadership group.
Then, from here in Auckland, came the figure of Stuart Broad who became the designated spokesman for an England team who clearly did not want to remain silent or mouth platitudes. They wanted their views known.
‘I saw Steve Smith say it’s the first time Australia have done this,’ said Broad. ‘To me it’s surprising why they’d change a method that’s been working.
‘Look at the Ashes and in virtually all those Tests they reversed the ball in conditions you wouldn’t expect the ball to reverse. I don’t understand why they’ve changed their method for just one game.’ Read into that what you will.
Broad also addressed a coach in Lehmann who surely cannot escape the sack despite Smith’s attempts to absolve him of blame.
Who is in Australia’s ‘leadership group’ which is at the centre of ball-tampering scandal
Steve Smith shockingly admitted that he and a so-called ‘leadership group’ had a discussion at lunch on the third day and decided they would illegally alter the condition of the ball.
Cameron Bancroft was subsequently caught on television cameras with yellow sticky tape, which was applied to the rough side of the ball in order for it to pick up more dirt and therefore aid reverse swing.
In Smith’s press conference, the captain said both his and the team’s reputation had been brought in to question following the incident.
Although he said the decision did not involve Darren Lehmann or the rest of the coaching staff, he said it involved a ‘leadership group’ – however he did not name names.
Sportsmail understands Smith, vice-captain David Warner and bowling trio Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc make up the rest of this senior group who were involved in the decision to manipulate the ball’s condition.
Poor Tim Paine, stand-in captain, has been described as the ‘only decent bloke in the team’
It was Lehmann, remember, who urged the whole Australian nation to abuse Broad during the 2013-14 Ashes and ‘send him home crying’ over that most Australian of ‘crimes’, failing to walk after edging a catch.
Was Lehmann not hypocritical for complaining about the South African crowd’s treatment of his players?
‘That’s your word not mine but I would agree with you,’ said Broad. ‘We lost that series but it didn’t make me cry.
‘I can’t understand why he’d come out and moan about a different country and what they’re saying to their players.
‘If someone looks you in the eye in sport you look them back in the eye. If someone wants to take you on verbally and they’ve started that fight you’re allowed to say something back.
‘From the outside it looks as though Australia have started a lot of fights and then moan when someone comes back.’
Exactly. It is the sanctimony that really gets you. And the sense that Australia in the form of their captain and vice-captain felt they could get away with anything.
Coach David Lehmann must be sacked for his role in the Cape Town scandal this weekend
The unpleasant ways of the Dastardly and Muttley of cricket would always catch up with them
The unpleasant ways of Smith and Warner, the Dastardly and Muttley of world cricket, were always likely to catch up with them but nobody dreamed it would be so sudden and as spectacular as this.
Cricket cannot afford to offer them any sympathy, not when the Test game in particular is under threat like never before.
Sutherland has dispatched CA performance director Pat Howard and ‘head of integrity’ Iain Roy to South Africa to sort this mess out and they must know what needs to be done.
Quite where Australia look to for leadership with the future of half the team and their coach in doubt remains unclear but they need a Brendon McCullum type figure to rescue them from the abyss now.
The stakes are high and only the strongest action will do.