As the fallout from Australia’s cricket cheating scandal continues, Cricket Australia have been forced to deny reports captain Steve Smith has left the country.
Fox Sports reported on Monday morning (AEDT) that Smith had left South Africa in disgrace after confessing to premeditated ball-tampering during a Cape Town Test that ended in farcical circumstances.
Chasing 430 to win, Australia collapsed in meek fashion, losing 10 wickets in the final session to be bowled out for 107.
Smith, who failed in both innings, stood down as Australia captain during the Test and was thought to be heading home before Cricket Australia moved to clarify the situation.
“Cricket Australia [CA] can confirm that all members of the touring Test squad currently remain in South Africa,” a statement read.
“Multiple media reports that suggest players have departed South Africa for home ports are inaccurate.
At this stage, players will remain in South Africa to assist CA with inquiries.
“Any outcomes from that process will be communicated in due course.”
Smith had already been banned from the fourth Test of the series, which South Africa lead 2-1.
The ICC handed down the punishment, also fining Smith 100 per cent of his match fee.
Cameron Bancroft, who was the player trying to tamper with the ball, was fined 75 per cent of his match fee – but not suspended.
Further punishment from Cricket Australia, particularly for Smith and other members of the leadership group, seems highly likely.
David Warner also stood down from his role as vice-captain of Australia during the Test, with wicket-keeper Tim Paine taking charge as acting captain.
Bancroft was ‘thrown under the bus’: Brad Hogg
Ex-Australia spinner Brad Hogg, a teammate of Bancroft’s at Western Australian grade club Willetton, said the 25-year-old, playing just his eighth Test, was simply the mule in the situation.
“I know Cameron Bancroft is disappointed,” Hogg told Fox Sports News.
“I play club cricket with him. I’ve seen him down at my club since he was a 13-year-old … we’re all disappointed. We know it’s not in his character. It’s not his doing.
“This young player is looking at Steve Smith, at these older players in the team.
“They’re very impressionable on such a young player. He’s only playing his eighth Test match. He wants to find his feet in that particular team.
“He will do anything. He will go through a brick wall for his teammates, especially his leader.
“I think he’s been thrown under the bus here … he’s stood out there in the media. He’s taken the responsibility. He’s taken the heat.”
Hogg’s views were echoed by Gavin Robertson, another former Test spinner for Australia.
Recalling his own experiences, Robertson, also speaking on Fox Sports News, said: “What happens in the Australian cricket team is you just do what you’re told … you are a servant until you earn your time.”
Robertson added that Bancroft would have gone along with the plan to tamper the ball from the leadership group, even if he was “absolutely scared to speak out”.
“When you’ve spent your whole life dreaming of playing for this team you’re not going to bounce the merit of order,” he said.
“You fall in line, as a minnow, you haven’t earned your right to have a say, even in team meetings.”