Hours after Cricket Australia said it would investigate the actions of the Australian team’s leadership in relation to the ball-tampering confession in the Cape Town Test, the Australian government has asked the board to remove Steven Smith as captain.
The country’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also called the incident a “shocking disappointment”, reports ESPNcricinfo.
The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) Chair John Wylie, the ASC Board, and CEO Kate Palmer – essentially speaking for the Australian government – called for severe action against the team. “The ASC condemns cheating of any form in sport,” it said in a statement. “The ASC expects and requires that Australian teams and athletes demonstrate unimpeachable integrity in representing our country.
“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 government’s point of view emerged shortly after CA chief executive James Sutherland had said the board would investigate the ball tampering affair and take further action against the national team beyond the ICC charge accepted by Cameron Bancroft.
With the CA chairman David Peever in transit home from South Africa, Sutherland chose not to travel to see the team himself, instead delegating the matter to the head of integrity, Iain Roy, and the team performance manager Pat Howard. The initiation of this “process” left Sutherland unable to offer anything beyond the conditional endorsement of Steven Smith as “current” captain of the national team.
Sutherland and Howard were central to the sacking of Mickey Arthur, predecessor to the current coach Darren Lehmann, ahead of the 2013 Ashes series.
“This morning [Australian cricket fans] have every reason to wake up and not be proud of the Australian team. It’s a sad day for Australian cricket,” Sutherland said in Melbourne. “Activities on the field yesterday in Cape Town are neither within the Laws of the game or within the spirit of the game. For us at Cricket Australia that’s extremely disappointing but more importantly it’s extremely disappointing for Australian cricket fans.
“That isn’t the end of it and can’t be the end of it. We have a responsibility to take this further and to understand more about the issue. We will over the next couple of days get a deep understanding of what happened and why and to that end I’ve asked our head of integrity Iain Roy to travel to South Africa today, Pat Howard will also go with him. Iain’s brief will be to gather the relevant information we need to understand the matter better.
“I understand that isn’t the fullness of response that everyone is looking for right now but you will appreciate there is an element of process that needs to be undertaken. It is being dealt with as a matter of urgency and seriousness. It will be dealt with promptly.”
Sutherland, who has been chief executive since 2001, revealed he was yet to speak to Smith about events at Newlands, where the Australians admitted to knowingly cheating by way of a ball tampering attempt in South Africa’s second innings.
“I haven’t spoken to Steve Smith… but he will know. In recent times I’ve had the need to speak to Steve about the behaviour of the team,” Sutherland said in reference to the first Test of the current series in Durban. “I have very strong views on the responsibility of the Australian team and no one will be under any illusions to what I think about this.
“We are extremely disappointed and shocked to what we woke up to this morning and we are dealing with this issue with the utmost urgency and seriousness. Steve Smith is currently the captain of the Australian team. We are working through a process and once we have a clearer picture of the facts then we’ll be able to make further comment.
“Our responsibility right now is to understand the facts and respond accordingly. I want to reiterate that we are dealing with this matter with appropriate urgency. I said right from the outset that I am shocked and extremely disappointed. This is a very sad day. I’m not happy about this at all.”
Despite the ICC match referee Andy Pycroft already informing the Australians of a ball tampering charge against Bancroft, Sutherland said Roy’s investigation would home in on the team issues at hand.
“We need someone to go over there and talk to the relevant people and understand the detail and then we’ll make appropriate decisions on the next steps,” Sutherland said. “We are in the middle of a game and that game needs to conclude but in course of next couple of days we’ll get to the bottom of this.
“I’m not going to speculate on who is involved. We have to understand from the action of the umpires and the press conference. But we need to have those discussions.”