Steve Smith looks set to lose the captaincy of Australia after admitting his team conspired to tamper with the ball during a test match. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called the incident a "shocking disappointment."
Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull on Sunday weighed in on the ball-tampering scandal that has plunged his country's test team into crisis and has severely dented its reputation.
Turnbull termed the incident a "shocking disappointment" and urged the Australian cricket board, Cricket Australia, to take prompt and decisive action.
"I have to say that the whole nation which holds those who wear the 'baggy green' up on a pedestal about as high as you can get in Australia, certainly higher than any politician that's for sure, this is a shocking disappointment," Turnbull told reporters, referring to the cap worn by Australian test cricketers.
"It's wrong and I look forward to Cricket Australia taking decisive action soon."
Cricket is one of the most popular sports in Australia, with top players earning millions of dollars a year.
Turnbull's comments follow a confession by Australian skipper Steve Smith that he and senior players conspired to change the condition of the ball using sticky tape and grit from the pitch during the third test against South Africa in Cape Town.
Smith said he was "embarrassed" by the scandal. He and his deputy David Warner have stepped down from their roles for the remainder of the test, where South Africa leads by more than 300 runs and looks set for a convincing win to move ahead 2-1 in the series.
Cricket Australia launches probe
Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland said the board would not make a decision about the future of Smith's captaincy until it completes a probe into the incident.
Sutherland says Smith and Warner had "agreed" to temporarily stand down after discussions with the cricket body.
Smith, rated among the best players currently playing the game, has led the team since 2015.
He told reporters on Saturday that the "leadership group" had tasked opening batsman Cameron Bancroft, the most junior member in the side, to carry out their plan. Bancroft was duly caught on camera using the tape to rough up the ball.
Roughing up one side of a cricket ball can help the bowler swing the ball in the air and gives an unfair advantage. Australia currently boasts one of the best bowling attacks in the game.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Sunday slapped Smith with a one-match ban and a 100-percent fine of his match fee. Bancroft was fined 75 percent of his match fee.
Former cricketers lash out at Smith
Michael Clarke, Smith's predecessor as captain, said the revelations were "disgraceful" and that he had no doubt that Smith would be "crying in his hotel room."
Former England captain Michael Vaughan lashed out at the decision to use a young Bancroft to implement the plan.
"What I find appalling in all this is the youngster got given the job," he tweeted, adding that it was "Disgraceful behavior by senior pros."
This is not the first time Smith's on-field behavior has kicked off a controversy.
In March 2017, the Australian skipper was caught seeking assistance from his teammates in the dressing room on whether to review the umpire's decision during a match against India.
Smith later described it as a "brain-fade" moment.
ap/ng (Reuters, dpa)