AUSTRALIA endured one of the most ignominious days in their cricketing history in Cape Town, condemned and exposed for a ball-tampering ruse that has left Steve Smith scrambling for his future as captain and booed out of Newlands after crashing to a dismal 322-run defeat to South Africa.
It is hard to shake the feeling that Australian cricket in its present iteration is now an irrevocably tainted brand and it would be no surprise to see Smith, suspended for the fourth and final Test against South Africa after a personal intervention from Dave Richardson, the chief executive of the International Cricket Council, pay with his job.
Head coach Darren Lehmann, absolved of guilt by Smith but with plenty of questions to answer as the team’s ultimate authority figure, also faces an uncertain period.
Cricket Australia have initiated their own internal investigation into Cameron Bancroft’s attempt to manipulate the ball with sticky tape and debris from the pitch, promising answers after a chorus of condemnation that began at the office of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and was echoed across the cricketing world.
Bancroft may have been the man wielding the improvised sandpaper, but his junior status and Smith’s confession of complicity saw him pay a bigger price – banned, fined 100 per cent of his match fee and handed four demerit points, while the perpetrator was fined 75 per cent of his purse and hit with three demerit points.
There could be additional ramifications at domestic level, with Somerset director of cricket Andy Hurry stating the club would seek “all the facts” regarding Bancroft, the club’s 2018 overseas signing.
Smith also captains Indian Premier League franchise Rajasthan Royals, who said in a statement: “(We) await further instructions from BCCI, before we make any announcement.
“We at Rajasthan Royals will not tolerate any actions that are unfair by definition and bring disrepute to the game of cricket. Our zero tolerance policy applies to everyone in our team. Please bear with us.”