Australian Sports Commission (ASC) called for Australia's cricket captain Steve Smith to step down following a ball-tampering scandal. The embattled captain has answered the call, but only to remove himself as captain. Smith will continue to take part in the test series.
“This Test match needs to proceed, and in the interim, we will continue to investigate this matter with the urgency that it demands,” Cricket Australia CEO, James Sutherland, said.
But, ASC Chair John Wylie, along with the board, earlier released a statement asking that Smith and others involved in the pre-meditated cheating incident step away from the sport. “The ASC condemns cheating of any form in sport. The ASC expects and requires that Australian teams and athletes demonstrate unimpeachable integrity in representing our country,” the statement said.
Cricketer Cameron Bancroft was caught on video – during a test match – removing a small piece of yellow tape from his pants pocket before rubbing the ball.
"I saw an opportunity to potentially use some tape and get some granules from the rough patches on the wicket and I guess try to change the ball condition,” Bancroft admitted. "It didn't work. The umpires didn't change the ball. Once I was sighted on the screen having done that I panicked quite a lot and that obviously resulted in me shoving [the tape] down my trousers."
BBC's Jonathan Agnew responded, “Laws of cricket: 'The major responsibility for fair play rests with the captains...' Smith has admitted not merely cheating, but planning to cheat. Everything else in that ill-tempered series is irrelevant to this. By his own actions, Smith's position as captain is untenable."
Bancroft admitted that Smith was aware of the plan.
Smith apologized, saying "We made a poor choice. We deeply regret our actions. Coaches weren't involved. It was purely the players in the leadership group. I can promise you it won't happen again. It's the first time this has happened. We will move on from this and hopefully learn something from it. I'm embarrassed. I feel for Cam. It's not what the Australian cricket team is about. I am incredibly sorry. It's a poor reflection on everyone in that dressing room and particularly the leaders in the group.”
Several sports experts and former stars expressed shocked at the blatancy with which the Australians' carried out the action.
“I'm not sure how Australia can have a national captain that has openly admitted to cheating. Cricket Australia must be strong, even though it will hurt,” Fox Sport's Tom Morris said.
Australia's sport governing body added that “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.”
Australian cricket legend Shane Warne tweeted that he was “very disappointed with the pictures.”
While ex-England captain Michael Vaughan said: “Steve Smith, his team and ALL the management will have to accept that whatever happens in their careers they will all be known for trying to CHEAT the game.”
Journalist and author, Rajdeep Sardesai, called for “a red card in cricket: sorry but Bancroft and Smith should be sent off the field, Aus play rest of the game with 9 players.”
The Australians are set to continue the fourth day of the third test, against South Africa, of their four-test series.