Steve Smith stepped down as captain of the Australian team for the remainder of the third Test match against South Africa on Sunday. It is a continuation sequence of events that was set off when visuals emerged of Cameron Bancroft using a “Yellow object” while rubbing the rough side of the ball in the second session of Day 3 and later hiding it inside his trousers.
The incident: During the second session of the third day of a Test match between Australia and South Africa in Port Elizabeth, visuals emerged of Australia’s Cameron Bancroft using a yellow object, that he later admitted was yellow tape, on the rough side of the ball. He later shifted the tape from his right pocket into his trousers before being summoned by the umpires, who were possibly tipped off by the third umpire about the incident. Steve Smith was also present while Bancroft shows the umpires a piece of black coloured cloth from his pocket. Umpires neither change the ball, nor impose a five-run penalty on the Australians – the standard punishment for ball tampering – which meant that the umpires were convinced that nothing sinister was afoot.
Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith admit to ball tampering in press conference: The said visuals went viral and various former cricketers and experts weighed in with their views, most of which were against Bancroft. In the press conference after the match, South Africa’s Aiden Markram said that he was “inexperienced” to be comment on the issue. Steve Smith then came with Cameron Bancroft to the presser and the latter said that he had a conversation with the umpires and has been charged for ball-tampering. He confirmed that he used the sticky side of the yellow tape to collect some granules from the rough part of the pitch and rubbed it on the ball. Steve Smith said that the “leadership group” of the team was aware of it and Bancroft chipped in by saying that he was in the vicinity while the plan was being talked about during Lunch. Smith said that it is the first time that such an incident is happening under his captaincy.
The reactions: While some, like former England captain Michael Vaughan, appreciated the fact that Smith and Bancroft had come clean, much of the reactions were negative towards the Australian setup. Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland interacted with the press on Sunday before start of play on the fourth day of the Test and said that Smith would continue as captain. “We are working through our processes and once we get a clearer picture of the facts and then we will be able to make further comments,” he said.
Smith and Warner step down: Just before fourth day’s play started, Cricket Australia announced that Steve Smith has stepped down as captain of the team and David Warner as vice captain. Wicket keeper Tim Paine is captain for the remainder of the match. “This Test match needs to proceed, and in the interim we will continue to investigate this matter with the urgency that it demands,” said Sutherland. Warner and Smith both took the field as players.
What the law says?
The Laws of Cricket, updated as of 2017, regards ball tampering as a Level 1 offence. According to the rule book, if a player is found guilty of “willfully mistreating any part of the cricket ground, equipment or implements used in the match,” the umpires shall “summon and inform the offending player’s captain that an offence at this Level has occurred.” If it is a first offence, the umpires shall issue a final “warning which shall apply to all members of the team for the remainder of the match” and further warn the captain any further iteration of any Level 1 offence including ball tampering will result in the opposition team being awarded five runs. If an offence occurs despite that, the umpire shall impose the said punishment.