SYDNEY: David Warner apologised Thursday for his part in a cheating scandal that has shocked the cricketing world and seen sponsors desert the game in Australia, as disgraced skipper Steve Smith heads home to explain his role in the affair.
Cricket Australia have banned the pair from all international and domestic cricket for a year while opening batsman Cameron Bancroft was exiled for nine months over the ball-tampering incident during the third Test in South Africa.
It has left their careers in tatters, with the fall from grace dramatic, and fast.
Warner, a divisive figure who was charged with developing the plot and instructing Bancroft to carry it out, broke his silence Thursday to say sorry and admit his actions had been “a stain on the game”.
“Mistakes have been made which have damaged cricket,” he told his 1.6 million Instagram followers as he made his way back to Sydney. “I apologise for my part and take responsibility for it.”
He added that he understood the distress the scandal had caused the sport and its fans.
“It’s a stain on the game we all love and I have loved since I was a boy,” he said. “I need to take a deep breath and spend time with my family, friends and trusted advisers. You will hear from me in a few days.”
In handing out their tough punishment, cricket chiefs bowed to uproar at home where sportsmen and women are held in high esteem and expected to act in the best interests of the game.
Authorities also needed to act decisively to counter mounting concern from sponsors over reputational damage.
CA’s response wasn’t enough to save an estimated Aus$20 million (US$15 million) partnership with naming rights sponsor Magellan which tore up its three-year contract Thursday after barely seven months.
“Regrettably, these recent events are so inconsistent with our values that we are left with no option but to terminate our ongoing partnership with Cricket Australia,” said the fund manager’s chief Hamish Douglass.
The financial cost for the players is also growing with sporting goods company ASICS ending its relationship with Warner and Bancroft. Electronics giant LG axed Warner on Wednesday, while Weet-Bix dumped Smith.
Other team sponsors, including Qantas, have voiced their deep disappointment over the scandal but so far have taken no action.
– Jeered at the airport –
Smith, a golden boy compared to Donald Bradman for his batting exploits, is reportedly a broken man.
He was jeered as he made his way through Johannesburg airport on Wednesday surrounded by police and media and will face the music at home with a press conference scheduled for Thursday evening.
There are concerns over his mental state in the current rabid climate, with coach Darren Lehmann calling for all three men to be “given a second chance”.
The Australian newspaper said Smith, used to being on a pedestal, had been a tearful wreck since the scandal broke and there were fears that his life might unravel during his exile.
Former great Shane Warne, no stranger himself to controversy, offered the trio an olive branch despite days of a harsh and judgemental Australian public baying for blood.
“What the public wants to see is change. They want to see you be a better person,” he wrote in a column for the Sydney Daily Telegraph. “They’ll support you if they see that, and they’ll forgive you.”
– Misled the public –
Smith — the world’s number one Test batsman — was charged with knowledge of the potential ball-altering plan, while Warner was charged with developing the plot and instructing Bancroft to carry it out.
CA said Bancroft, who has played just eight Tests, had attempted to “artificially alter the condition of the ball using sandpaper”.
CA added Smith had continued to try to cover up the plot by issuing “misleading public comments regarding the nature, extent and participants of the plan”.
In a further blow, it ruled Smith and Bancroft would not be considered for team leadership positions until a minimum of 12 months after the end of their suspensions, and Warner will never lead again.
While they are banned from top-level cricket, they can still play at club level in Australia or in other countries.
However, both Smith and Warner have been ejected from this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL), losing contracts worth nearly US$2 million each.
While they have been banished, Lehmann remains in charge because Cricket Australia said he was unaware of what was going on.
Wicketkeeper Tim Paine will take over the Australian captaincy for the fourth and final Test starting in Johannesburg on Friday, with Matt Renshaw, Glenn Maxwell and Joe Burns drafted in as replacements.