He's hailed as the best since Bradman, and is seemingly one of the nicest blokes in a cut-throat game, but Steve Smith must step down as captain of the Australian Test team.
On March 24, Smith and Australian batsman Cameron Bancroft, admitted conspiring to tamper the ball on the third day of the third Test Match against South Africa in Capetown.
The pre-meditated plan, which was agreed upon by the team’s leadership group, involved roughing up the ball’s surface using dirt collected on a piece of sticky tape.
And for that Smith must walk.
Sure, it’s not the first time Australian cricketers have bowled wide of the game’s spirit. Shane Warne and Mark Waugh allegedly accepted thousands from a bookmaker in Sri Lanka in 1994 in return for pitch and weather info. (Warne also returned a positive result for a banned diuretic in 2003 and was banned for a year.)
But neither Warne nor Waugh, who were both fined and were afforded a second chance to continue playing for their country, ever held the second-highest office in the land.
Smith, who was fined his match fee and suspended for one game by the International Cricket Council, says he still thinks he’s “the right person for the job."
Wrong. The captain is the team’s foundation. And he or she brings the team’s tactics and spirit to the game. If that includes cheating, the captain must pull-up stumps.
Smith can begin walking his long road of redemption now by apologising (again), stepping down as captain, and giving the beloved national team a chance to get back to doing what they’re good at: playing cricket and sledging.
The sooner Smith steps down, the sooner those in the Baggy Green can work on regaining the nation’s—and the world’s—trust.
As for Bancroft, who was caught by the TV cameras uncomfortably shoving the piece of bright yellow sticky tape into the crotch of his pants, his punishment seems just: 75 per cent of his match fee plus and a dose of worldwide humiliation. Consider it: with all the clear tape in the world available for his pre-planned cheating, and about to walk on to a stadium before a dozen or so cameras, he chooses one the colour of the sun. Not so marvellous, that.