Steve Smith, who was pegged as the best player to walk on a Test pitch after legendary Sir Don Bradman, is now facing a lifetime ban threat. Along with Smith, Australian opener David Warner can also face a similar fate after a probe conducted by Cricket Australia (CA) is concluded in the ‘ball-tampering’ row. CA is likely to announce an “exemplary punishment” which could even be a life ban for the “leadership group” involved in the incident.
Both Smith, Warner had stepped down from the position of captain and vice-captain respectively in the middle of the 3rd Test which was marred by the ‘ball-tampering’ controversy. On Sunday, after CA decided to wait for the probe to be done before sacking Smith and Warner from the honourable position, the Australian government, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, pressured the board to take swift action which led to their stepping down.
CEO of CA James Sutherland had informed media that the Head of Integrity Iain Roy and Head of Team Performance Pat Howard are leading the investigation.
According to ESPNCricinfo, Roy and Howard will likely interview Smith, Warner, Bancroft and the Australian coach Darren Lehmann. After listening to their versions it will be determined if players and staff will be charged under the code of behaviour. And according to the rules of CA, a charge of conduct contrary to the spirit of the game includes the clause “any conduct that is considered ‘unfair play’ under Rule 42 of the Laws of Cricket or against the spirit in which the game of cricket should be played”. The maximum penalty available to the code of conduct commissioner is a life ban from the sport, with several factors to be taken into account including “the seriousness of the breach” and “the harm caused by the breach to the interests of cricket”.
ICC has already handed out a one-match suspension to Smith and fined him with a 100% match fee. The ball-handler Cameron Bancroft has been fined 75% of his match fee and handed 3 demerit points.
The ‘ball-tampering’ incident also being called #SandPaper row on social media happened on the 3rd day of the Cape Town Test. Young Australian opener Bancroft was seen using a yellow-tape to change the condition of the ball as South Africa was gaining a lead over the visitors. The act was caught on camera and displayed on the large screens all over the stadium repeatedly. Both the then skipper and Bancroft admitted their wrongdoingwhile Smith went on saying that “leadership group” prompted the action.
After the incident surfaced, the Australian cricket team is under fire and has been branded as “cheats”.