Steve Smith weeps as he apologises for ball-tampering
Australian captain deeply regrets actions after being sent home from South Africa
Steve Smith, struggling to contain his emotions and at one point breaking down completely, faced the cameras for the first time since being stripped of the Australian cricket captaincy to issue a heartfelt apology for his role in the ball tampering affair that has rocked the sport.
Having been handed a 12-month ban and been sent home from South Africa by Cricket Australia, a devastated Smith touched down in Sydney on Thursday night and faced the music shortly afterwards in a highly-charged airport press conference room.
He repeatedly stated how “deeply sorry” he was for his actions, a sentiment Cameron Bancroft had expressed earlier in the evening when he landed in Perth and fronted the media. David Warner, the third of the trio charged with ball tampering in the third Test in Cape Town, was on his way back to Sydney, although he was not expected to face the media. Instead he issued a statement on social media en route, admitting such behaviour is was “stain on the game”.
Smith said that, as captain of the team, he took full responsibility for what happened on the pitch in Cape Town and refused to lay blame with anyone else, deflecting a question about his relationship with Warner.
“I made a serious error of judgment and I take the consequences,” he said. “It was a failure of my leadership. I will do everything to make up for my mistake and the damage it has caused. If it can be a lesson for others, I hope I can be a force for change. Cricket is the greatest game in the world. It’s my life and I hope it can be again.”
He broke down completely as he spoke of the impact on his parents the last few days have had, and was ushered out of the room soon after.
Warner, who was identified by Cricket Australia as the architect of the events that unfolded during the third Test in Cape Town, where the three players conspired to alter the state of the ball with sandpaper, admitted in a Twitter post that such behaviour is a “stain on the game”.
In his first public comments since also being stripped of the vice-captaincy and banned for 12 months, Warner posted a message addressing “cricket fans in Australia and all over the world”.
“Mistakes have been made which have damaged cricket,” he wrote. “I apologise for my part and take responsibility for it. I understand the distress this has caused the sport and its fans.
“It’s a stain on the game we all love and I have loved since I was a boy. I need to take a deep breath and spend time with my family, friends and trusted advisors.”
Warner also flew into Sydney but was not expected to face the media after he suggested in his message that he intends to lie low for immediate future. “You will hear from me in a few days,” he wrote.
Bancroft, the player caught by television cameras holding the smoking gun – the yellow piece of sandpaper – and the third Australian to be sanctioned following the affair, flew into Perth.
Visibly emotional, the young opener, who was handed a nine-month ban, apologised and asked for forgiveness. “I want to say that I’m very sorry,” he said. “I’m very disappointed and I regret my actions. It is something I will regret for the rest of my life.
“The thing that breaks my heart the most is that I’ve given up my spot in the team for free. People know I worked so hard to get to this point in my career and to have given up that chance for free is devastating.
“I lied about the sandpaper. I panicked in that situation and I’m very sorry.”
Asked if he was pushed into tampering with the ball, he said: “I’m not going to comment about other players involved. They are my actions and I’m accountable. They don’t reflect my values. It’s something I’m ashamed of.
“Through this whole experience it’s been so obvious to see how important cricket is in Australia and to the public. I have never ever been involved in tampering with a ball [BEFORE]. It completely compromises my standards and values as a player.”
As part of the severe sanctions delivered by Cricket Australia, Warner was told he will never again be considered for a role in the team’s leadership group, and there are doubts whether he will even represent his country again amid reports of a rift between him and the rest of the squad.
But there remains the possibility of an appeal for all three players, with the Australian Cricketers’ Association voicing concerns over the way in which CA handled the case.
“There are a number of glaring and clear anomalies in the process to date which causes the ACA to query the severity and proportionality of the proposed sanctions,” an ACA statement read.
The trio are already beginning to pay a financial price for their actions though and on Thursday, sportswear manufacturer Asics dumped Warner and Bancroft as brand ambassadors, following in the footsteps of electronics giant LG, which did not renew its deal with Warner the previous day.
Smith’s deals with Commonwealth Bank and Sanitarium, which makes the breakfast cereal Weet-Bix, were also ended.
The scandal has also hit Cricket Australia in the pocket, with naming rights sponsor Magellan pulling out of a major deal as naming rights sponsor on Thursday. – Guardian service