Steve Smith’s fortunes have taken another blow as Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive James Sutherland is due to land in South Africa on Tuesday amid mounting pressure to drop the Australian captain.
As Australia’s cricket heirarchy consider Smith’s fate, the prolific batsman’s Indian Premier League side released a statement saying he was stepping down as captain “in the best interest of the Rajasthan Royals”.
“Rajasthan Royals will do everything possible to protect the values and the integrity of the game,” co-owner Manoj Badale said.
“What happened in South Africa was clearly wrong, especially given that it appears to have been premeditated.”
Smith confessed on Sunday morning that he authorised premeditated cheating on day three of the third Test against South Africa, looking to use sticky tape in an illegal attempt to change the condition of the ball.
“The game is bigger than any individual and we hold this thought close to our heart.”- Manoj Badale , the co-owner of Rajasthan Royals
— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) March 26, 2018
Batsman Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera using the tape while working on the ball in the post-lunch session then attempted to hide it from umpires by concealing in his pants.
CA’s integrity chief Iain Roy and team performance manager Pat Howard are in Cape Town and have started their formal review of the scandal.
Sutherland is due to meet with Roy and Howard on Tuesday before discussing likely punishments with the CA board.
David Warner’s vice-captaincy also hangs in the balance, with the opener shaping as another enforced omission for the fourth and final Test.
Smith has already been handed with a one-Test ban by the International Cricket Council and will miss the fourth match against South Africa starting Friday in Johannesburg.
The fate of Smith, Warner and Bancroft is expected to be be announced in the early hours of Wednesday morning (AEDT).
Coach Darren Lehmann may be the first to depart the team, with UK media reports suggesting he is set to leave the job in the coming day.
London’s Telegraph newspaper reported that Lehmann informed Sutherland of his decision on Monday.
The report claims Lehmann’s decision was the reason Sutherland decided to travel to South Africa.
Alan Joyce, chief executive of major sponsor Qantas, echoed the thoughts of those involved when he urged CA to take action quickly on Tuesday morning (AEDT).
“I think this has mortified the entire country,” Joyce told Sky UK.
“We’re talking to Cricket Australia asking them to complete their investigation as soon as they can and take appropriate action, and I think they will do that, and we’ll keep that dialogue going,” he said.
The ICC didn’t ban Bancroft, instead punishing his ball-tampering charge with a hefty fine and three demerit points, but CA may not be so forgiving.
Bancroft carried out the plan on Saturday then attempted to hide the evidence from umpires, while Warner was also involved in the initial discussion.
Any player or member of support staff who conspired to use sticky tape in an illegal effort to scuff the ball at Newlands are also likely to be sanctioned.
CA has the power to hand out lifetime bans from the sport, but the governing body is unlikely to opt for such an extreme response.
Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) chief Alistair Nicholson is also in Cape Town, where a series of crisis talks are unfolding.
Not since the ‘homeworkgate’ saga of 2013, when Shane Watson was banned, flew home, copped criticism from Howard then returned to India and became Australia’s 44th Test captain, has there been such instability in Australian cricket.
On that occasion, four players were given one-Test suspensions for not completing written feedback to then coach Mickey Arthur.
Now, Smith has admitted he rubber-stamped ball tampering. The fresh-faced leader’s moral compass was corrupted by a desperation to win.
Tim Paine, who is set to lead Australia in the fourth Test, says Smith and Bancroft are “struggling” as the full extent of the backlash becomes clear.
Tim Paine is expected to formally become Australia’s 46th Test captain after filling in after Smith and Warner stood down from their leadership roles for the rest of the third Test on Sunday.
The Tasmanian wouldn’t be drawn on whether Smith and coach Darren Lehmann should continue in their posts.
Paine also wouldn’t entertain the prospect of replacing Smith in a full-time capacity.
“There’ll be a review this week. I’m not sure what’s going to happen,” he said.
“I don’t think anyone is.”