In Brief

Australia cricket scandal: Steve Smith suspended after ball-tampering incident

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is ‘shocked and bitterly disappointed’ by the events in South Africa

The biggest scandal to engulf cricket for decades took another turn yesterday with the announcement that Australian captain Steve Smith has been suspended for the fourth Test in Johannesburg after he was charged by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for “conduct contrary to the spirit of the game”. 

The scandal erupted on Saturday when television footage was broadcast showing Australian opening bowler Cameron Bancroft using a foreign object on the ball and then hiding the object down his trousers. It later transpired that the object was yellow tape. 

In an extraordinary press conference at the end of the third day’s play in the third Test in Cape Town, Smith admitted that Bancroft had been told to tamper with the ball by the team’s “senior leadership” group.

Smith has since stepped aside as captain for the remainder of the third Test (with vice-captain David Warner doing likewise). Tim Paine is taking his place.

In announcing the one-Test ban, along with the withdrawal of Smith’s match fee, ICC chief executive David Richardson said in a statement: “The decision made by the leadership group of the Australian team to act in this way is clearly contrary to the spirit of the game, risks causing significant damage to the integrity of the match, the players and the sport itself, and is therefore serious in nature.

“As captain, Steve Smith must take full responsibility for the actions of his players and it is appropriate that he be suspended.”

The ball-tampering incident is the latest stain on a series that has shone a light on the many unsavoury aspects of international cricket. Richardson says the sport needs to have “a hard look at itself”.

He added: “In recent weeks we have seen incidents of ugly sledging, send-offs, dissent against umpires’ decisions, a walk-off, ball tampering and some ordinary off-field behaviour. 

“The ICC needs to do more to prevent poor behaviour and better police the spirit of the game, defining more clearly what is expected of players and enforcing the regulations in a consistent fashion.”

The scandal has shocked Australia, a cricketing country that has thought of itself as playing the sport in a hard but fair manner.

“Australian cricket fans and Cricket Australia expect certain standards of conduct from cricketers representing our country,” said Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland. “On this occasion these standards have not been met. All Australians, like us, want answers and we will keep you updated on our findings, as a matter of priority.”

The controversy also brought a swift reaction from the country’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who said: “I am shocked and bitterly disappointed by the news from South Africa. It seems beyond belief the Australian cricket team have been involved in cheating. Our cricketers are role models and cricket is synonymous with fair play. How can our team be engaged in cheating like this?”

Turnbull revealed he had spoken with David Peever, the chairman of Cricket Australia, and expressed his dismay at the team’s behaviour.

“It’s their responsibility to deal with it,” he said. “But I have to say that [for] the whole nation, who hold those who wear the baggy green up on a pedestal – about as high as you can get in Australia, certainly higher than any politician, that’s for sure – this is a shocking disappointment.”

The fallout from ‘Tapegate’ shows no sign of abating. The Times today reports that England had “suspicions that Australia were attempting to tamper with the ball during their 4-0 Ashes defeat in the winter”. 

The paper says that the issue was discussed within the dressing room but no formal complaint was lodged because the team had no evidence.

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