Steve Smith, the captain of Australia's cricket team, has been banned for his role in a highly damaging ball-tampering scandal. Deputy David Warner and opening batsman Cameron Bancroft have also been suspended.
The three players in question have been sent home with immediate effect following an investigation by Cricket Australia, the country's cricket body, into a ball tampering incident that occurred during Australia's test match against South Africa over the weekend.
Steve Smith and David Warner, who have stepped down from their roles as captain and vice captain of Australia's cricket team, both received 12-month bans. Cameron Bancroft, Australia's opening batsman, was suspended for nine.
Smith and Warner are unable to take part in first-class cricket at international or provincial level in Australia for a year. They would, however, be permitted to play for their clubs in city-level leagues. Bancroft has had similar limitations imposed for his nine-month ban.
"These are significant penalties for professional players and the Cricket Australia Board does not impose them lightly," Cricket Australia chairman David Peever said in a statement. "It is hoped that following a period of suspension, the players will be able to return to playing the game they love and eventually rebuild their careers."
To make matters worse, the Board of Control for Cricket in India has also banned the trio for the 2018 Indian Premier League season.
Despite the sanctions, fans and sponsors remain outraged at a scandal, which has even seen Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull voice his disapproval.
With their team trailing South Africa 2-1 in the test series, Smith and Warner had approached Bancroft and persuaded him to cheat by scuffing up the ball with makeshift sandpaper. Damaging the ball causes alterations in its flight path, placing the batting team, South Africa in this case, at a disadvantage. The plan was foiled when TV cameras spotted the foul play and officials were alerted.
Smith made his test debut against Pakistan at Lord's in 2010, and has since gone on to played 64 tests and scored 6199 runs with a 61-plus average, hitting 23 centuries and 24 fifties. He led Australia to 4-0 series victory over England in 2017-18 Ashes and finished as top scorer in the series with 687 runs in five tests.
em/dv (Reuters, AP)