Steve Smith and David Warner, former Australia captain and vice-captain respectively, have been banned for a 12 month period by Cricket Australia. The verdict has come after investigation into the ball-tampering controversy. Also involved in the cheating case, Cameron Bancroft has been banned for nine months. Smith and Bancroft have been banned from a leadership position with the national team for a period of 12 months while Warner will not be considered at all in the future.
Smith and Warner will be back in time for the ICC World Cup in England and then the Ashes. Bancroft, meanwhile, returns in time for summer with India to tour Australia at the time. As per the punishment handed out, the players have been banned from all elite Australian cricket, although they can play grade cricket.
All players have the right to appeal their verdicts and also the duration of their penalties via a Cricket Australia code of conduct hearing with an independent commissioner, who can also choose whether to keep the hearing public or private. The players are due to depart for Australia on Wednesday with Smith to speak publicly upon his arrival in Sydney.
In sombre scenes in Johannesburg, Smith was handed the punishment and asked to relay it to his teammates. The players were left visible shaken after learning that two lead members of the squad would be unavailable for a year. Smith and newly appointed skipper Tim Paine embraced in the hotel and moments later Smith left, dragging a suitcase behind him.
On Tuesday, CA chief executive James Sutherland revealed the trio of Smith, Warner and Bancroft were the only members in the Australian squad or support staff who had any knowledge of the plan to deliberately alter the condition of the ball. They were found to have breached Article 2.3.5 of the Code of Conduct, which relates to conduct at any time that is contrary to the spirit of the game, unbecoming of a representative, harmful to the interests of the game, or bringing the game into disrepute.
The players were informed of their “significant sanctions” in the team hotel in Johannesburg before leaving for Australia. With Smith, Warner and Bancroft leaving South Africa, Matthew Renshaw, Joe Burns and Glenn Maxwell have been called up as their replacements for the fourth Test starting Friday.
The last time Steve Smith missed a Test for Australia was back in March 2013 against India. Since then, he’s played 59 Tests for Australia and scored 23 centuries during this period before being handed the captaincy. Smith is currently the top-ranked Test batsman in the world.
The incident that led to the entire controversy and the subsequent suspensions took place during South Africa’s innings on Saturday afternoon when Bancroft was captured on TV cameras holding a foreign object while rubbing the ball, before hiding the object in his pocket, then inside his trousers. The players were later questioned by the two on-field umpires, who, along with third umpire and fourth umpire, later charged Bancroft. After Saturday’s play, Smith and Bancroft admitted to tampering with the ball. The plan to alter the condition of the ball was made at Lunch break between senior players, which later emerged as Smith and Warner, without the consent of the coaching staff.
Delivering the verdict, match referee Andy Pycroft said: “To carry a foreign object on to the field of play with the intention of changing the condition of the ball to gain an unfair advantage over your opponent is against not only the Laws, but the Spirit of the game as well.”
“That said, I acknowledge that Cameron has accepted responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty to the charge and apologising publicly. As a young player starting out in international cricket, I hope the lessons learned from this episode will strongly influence the way he plays the game during the rest of his career.”