Government’s ruthless Smith intervention
STEVE Smith's future as Australian captain is uncertain as Cricket Australia launches an investigation into the ball tampering that took place on day three of the third Test.
Smith and Cameron Bancroft admitted to cheating by trying to illegally change the condition of the ball.
The revelation has sparked waves of condemnation and calls for Smith's sacking. Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said he would not rush into making a decision about Smith's leadership until proper process has been followed.
Adam Gilchrist has led a chorus of shock and outrage in response to Australia's premeditated attempt to cheat in the third Test against South Africa, veteran spinner Brad Hogg reckons a naive Cameron Bancroft has been "thrown under the bus" by team leaders and - remarkably - the Australian government is getting involved.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday afternoon has weighed into the issue, calling for "decisive action" against the perpetrators.
"After all our cricketers are role models and cricket is synonymous with fair play. How can our team be engaged in cheating like this?" Turnbull said.
Smith said he and his leadership group discussed the merits of using sticky tape to illegally alter the ball at lunch on day three of the contest in Cape Town.
Bancroft was then caught using the tape, which had debris from the pitch, while working on the ball.
The opener, who attempted to hide the tape from umpires, has been charged with ball tampering by the match referee.
Former Test vice-captain Gilchrist said he was "embarrassed" by the revelations.
"Australian cricket now and the integrity of Australian cricket is the laughing stock of world sport," he said.
"We're very quick to damn nations that cheat in any way or go beyond the rules.
"This clearly is against the laws of the game and we've just had our national captain admit they sat down, premeditated, pre-planned a way to cheat."
Hogg, who comes from the same Perth club as Bancroft and has known him since he was 13, pointed the finger of blame directly at Smith for leading the eight-Test opener astray.
"(Bancroft) wants to find his feet in that particular team," Hogg said.
"He'll do anything, he'll go through a brick wall for his teammates; especially for his leader.
"I think he's been thrown under the bus here."
In an extraordinary development, the Australian Sports Commission - the government agency responsible for distributing funding to sports - urged Cricket Australia to take urgent action.
"The ASC condemns cheating of any form in sport," it said in a statement, attributed to ASC chair John Wiley, his board and CEO Kate Palmer.
"The Australian cricket team are iconic representatives of our country.
"The example they set matters a great deal to Australia and to the thousands of young Australians playing or enjoying the sport of cricket and who look up to the national team as role models.
"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.
"This can occur while Cricket Australia completes a full investigation."
The scandal is not without a touch of irony.
Last time South Africa and Australia took part in a Test series Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis found himself under the microscope for the way he was shining the ball.
He was found guilty of ball tampering in November 2016 on a tour Down Under after he was pinged for applying saliva to the ball with a mint in his mouth.
Du Plessis maintained his innocence and said Australia shined the ball the same way.
Steve Smith agreed with his counterpart on that occasion, saying teams around the world shined the ball just as du Plessis did.
Eighteen months later and ball tampering has become an issue again, yet in far more serious circumstances and with the shoe on the other foot.
We're betting du Plessis didn't have this in mind when referring to Australia's ball-shining practices two summers ago.
Many former players argued the du Plessis storm was blown out of proportion but nobody can argue this is one of the darkest days in Australian cricket history.
England star Kevin Pietersen has called on Smith, coach Darren Lehmann and bowling coach David Saker to be sacked.
Former England batsman Mark Butcher said the scandal revealed Australia's double standards when it comes to taking the moral high ground with its words but not with its actions, as did former England wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter.