Johannesburg (AFP) – Disgraced Australia skipper Steve Smith and senior batsman David Warner were Wednesday banned from top-level cricket for a year over a cheating scandal that has rocked the sport and dragged their side’s reputation through the mud.
Both players have also been ejected from this year’s Indian Premier League, losing contracts worth nearly $2 million each.
A statement from Cricket Australia (CA) said Smith and Warner had been suspended from “all international and domestic cricket” while opening batsman Cameron Bancroft has been banned for nine months over the ball-tampering incident during the third Test in South Africa.
A Cricket Australia spokesman told AFP the players could still play at club level in Australia or in other countries.
Smith was charged with knowledge of a potential plan “to attempt to artificially alter the condition of the ball” but Warner was charged with developing the plan and instructing Bancroft to carry it out using sandpaper.
The CA statement said Smith and Bancroft would not be considered for team leadership positions until a minimum of 12 months after the end of their suspensions, but Warner will be barred from such positions in the future.
All three players will also be required to undertake 100 hours of voluntary service in community cricket.
– ‘Significant sanctions’ –
Cricket Australia said Bancroft had attempted to “artificially alter the condition of the ball using sandpaper”. The aim would have been to generate more swing for Australia’s bowlers.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said: “I am satisfied that the sanctions in this case properly reflect a balance between the need to protect the integrity and reputation of the game and the need to maintain the possibility of redemption for the individuals involved, all of whom have learned difficult lessons through these events.”
He said the national body would provide details of an independent review “into the conduct and culture of our Australian men’s team in due course.”
Smith, Warner and Bancroft have been sent home from South Africa but coach Darren Lehmann remains in charge because Cricket Australia says he was unaware of the plot to tamper with the ball.
The scandal will also hit the players hard in the pocket, with Smith and Warner losing their contracts in the IPL, Smith with the Rajasthan Royals and Warner for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said its top officers had decided “to ban Mr Smith and Mr Warner with immediate effect from participation in IPL 2018”.
“The BCCI hopes that the cricketers participating in the IPL hold the highest regard for the spirit of cricket and code of conduct for players and match officials,” India’s governing body added in a statement.
Wicketkeeper Tim Paine will take over the Australian captaincy for the fourth and final Test starting in Johannesburg on Friday, with hosts South Africa leading a bad-tempered series 2-1 as Matt Renshaw, Glenn Maxwell and Joe Burns fly to South Africa to replace the exiled trio.
Smith had already been suspended for one Test and docked his entire match fee by the International Cricket Council.
Smith said after the Test that the Australia team’s “leadership group” had been aware of the plan.
However, Sutherland has insisted Lehmann was not involved.
Former Australian captain Michael Clarke, the man Smith succeeded in 2015, believes there is more to the story than meets the eye.
“Too many reputations on the line for the full story not to come out. Cape Town change room is a very small place!” he tweeted.
Warner, a divisive figure in the world game, has become the focus of Australian media, who blame him for the scandal.
The Australian newspaper said there had been a “fierce feud” in the dressing room sparked by Warner’s alleged testimony to Cricket Australia’s integrity officers, with pace spearheads Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood reportedly livid at being implicated.
It said they felt he was willing to blame them to take the heat off himself, with emotions so raw that Warner may never be welcomed back.
Sponsors have voiced “deep concern” over reputational damage with electronics giant LG dropping Warner as brand ambassador on Wednesday, amid fears other could follow suit.