Disgraced, Distraught, Devastated! Call it what they will, the Australian captain Steve Smith has dropped himself into a ball-tampering debacle with the most junior player in the side, Cameron Bancroft. Smith on Saturday admitted that he and Bancroft conspired to ‘get an advantage’ in the third Test by applying tape on the ball. During the press conference after day three of the ongoing Test between South Africa and Australia, Smith said that he knew about tampering but added that he would not step down, saying he was still “the right person for the job”. The incident took place shortly before tea when 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. When he realised that the cameras had spotted him doing the ill-deed, Bancroft was seen hiding the object in his trouser.
When the two match umpires, Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth questioned him, he maintained it was only a cleaning cloth being applied to the ball. Bancroft later described the lie as a product of panic at realising that he had been caught. “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 didn’t work,” he added.
Smith, however, said that it was the idea of the ‘leadership group’. Although Smith did not name who were involved to plat such a plan, he cleared head coach, Darren Lehmann of the charge. “Bangers was around at the time and we spoke about it and thought it was a possible way to get an advantage,” he said. “I’m not proud of what’s happened [and] it’s not within the spirit of the game. My integrity, the team’s integrity, the leadership group’s integrity has come into question and rightfully so. It’s certainly not on and it won’t happen again, I can promise you that, under my leadership.”
A simply astonishing confession from Australia captain Steve Smith and batsman Cameron Bancroft ???? pic.twitter.com/YaE7fBZamq
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) March 24, 2018
His captaincy now becomes a topic of interest but Smith rejected outright any consideration of resignation. “I still think I’m 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 I’m 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.”
Following the incident, both South African and Australian players have reacted to it. Former Aussie Michael Vaughan took to Twitter and said, “I need a bit of joinery doing at the house … Are Aussies cheap ??? #SandpaperGate” The Proteas bowler Dale Steyn tweeted, “Can we talk about this?”
The last series between Australia and South Africa in 2016/17 featured a ball-tampering controversy when Proteas captain Faf du Plessis was found guilty of using a mint to shine the ball. Under the ICC code of conduct is a level-two offence, carrying up to four demerit points, a total that brings about a one-Test ban for a player found guilty.