Sydney/Johannesburg, March 29: The banned Australian trio of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft on Thursday issued apologies for their involvement in a ball tampering incident with the sacked captain taking full responsibility for it while head coach Darren Lehmann, cleared of any wrongdoing, surprisingly announced his resignation.
Smith, who along with his deputy Warner was banned for a year, broke down repeatedly during a press conference at the Sydney airport, where he admitted that the Cape Town ball tampering scandal was a failure of his leadership.
Stripped of the Australian captaincy for at least two years, he owned full responsibility for the whole scandal that broke out during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town.
“I’ve been privileged and honoured to represent my country. Cricket has been my life and I hope it can be again.
“I’m sorry and I’m absolutely devastated. I don’t blame anyone. I’m the captain of the Australian team. It’s on my watch and I take responsibility for what happened,” he told the media on his arrival in Sydney from South Africa.
“I am sorry. I want to make it clear that as captain of the Australia Cricket team I take full responsibility. I made a serious error of judgment and I now understand the consequences.
“I will do everything I can do to make up for my mistake and the damage it has caused. If any good can come of this, it can be a lesson to others, and I hope can be a cause for change,” he added.
Smith also hoped that he can earn back the respect and trust of the fans with the passage of time.
“I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness, I’ve been so privileged and honoured to represent my country and captain the Australian cricket team.
“Cricket is the greatest game in the world. It’s been my life, and I hope it can be again. I’m sorry and I’m absolutely devastated,” he said.
Warner, on his part, apologised for “the distress he has caused the sport and its fans”.
“To cricket fans in Australia and all over the world, I am currently on my way to Sydney. Mistakes have been made which have damaged cricket,” Warner, 31, said on Twitter.
“I apologize for my part and take responsibility for it. I understand the distress this has caused to the sport and its fans. It’s a stain on the game we all love and I have loved since I was a boy.
“I need to take a deep breath and spend time with my family, friends and trusted advisors. You will hear from me in a few days,” he added.
Rookie opener Bancroft, who was handed a nine-month ban, admitted that he “lied and panicked” on that fateful day in Cape Town, acknowledging he will now live a lifetime of regret.
“I want to say that I am very sorry,” Bancroft told reporters after his arrival at Perth.
“I love the game of cricket and playing for my nation and my state there is no greater pride for me. I am extremely disappointed and regret my actions.”
“I understand that I have let people down and I understand the disappointment in the broader community. Words don’t mean much in these circumstances, so I will focus on my actions and my conduct going forward.
“It is something I will regret for the rest of my life. It is something I will look to improve on and earn the respect back of the community,” he added.
But what sent shock waves through the Australian fans towards the end of the day, was head coach Lehmann announcing that he will step down from his post after the fourth and final Test against the Proteas, starting on Friday.
The 48-year-old was on Wednesday cleared of any wrongdoing in the ball-tampering scandal.
“Saying goodbye to the players was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do,” said Lehmann, who won two ICC World Cups in 1999 and 2003 as a player.
“As many who sit in this room will know, life on the road means a lot of time away from loved ones and after speaking to my family, it is the right time to step away.”
“I hope the team rebuilds and the Australian public can forgive the young men and get behind the XI,” the World Cup-winning coach summed up at the emotionally charged up presser.