The Australia captain, Steve Smith, said it was the players and the leadership group that came up with the ball-tampering plan against South Africa
Distraught. Disgraced. Devastated. Call it what they will, the leadership of the Australia team have dropped themselves into a ball-tampering debacle with the most junior player in the side, Cameron Bancroft, the man left standing in the dock. During a stunning press conference after day three of the third Test against South Africa here in Cape Town, Steve Smith freely stated that he had brought the game into disrepute with his direction in the matter but was adamant that he should keep the captaincy.
In a dramatic middle session Bancroft was seen pulling a yellow object from his pocket and rubbing it on the ball in an effort to scuff it to help achieve reverse swing. Upon realising that the move was spotted by the TV cameras, he was then seen hiding the object in his underwear.
Questioned by the umpires, Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth, he maintained it was only a cleaning cloth being applied to the ball. The 25-year-old, in his eighth Test, later described that blatant lie as a product of panic at realising he had been caught.
I have been charged with attempting to change the condition of the ball, the opener said before admitting his guilt and detailing what he had been up to. We had a discussion during the break and I saw an opportunity to use some tape, get some granules from rough patches on the wicket to change the ball condition. It didnt work. Too right it didnt.
For Smiths part, he said the leadership group of the team hatched the foolish plan at the lunch interval. He refused to name names but when Glenn Maxwell was fined internally by a similar collective in 2016 it included Smiths deputy, David Warner, and the fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. Smith made clear that the head coach, Darren Lehmann, was not involved.
Bangers was around at the time and we spoke about it and thought it was a possible way to get an advantage, he said. Im not proud of whats happened [and] its not within the spirit of the game. My integrity, the teams integrity, the leadership groups integrity has come into question and rightfully so. Its certainly not on and it wont happen again, I can promise you that, under my leadership.
His captaincy now becomes a topic of interest but Smith rejected outright any consideration of resignation. I still think Im the right person for the job, he said. I take responsibility as the captain, I need to take control of the ship, but this is certainly something Im not proud of and something that I can hopefully learn from and come back strong from. I am embarrassed to be sitting here talking about this.