Steve Smith's predecessor as Test captain believes Australia's leadership group must cop same punishment as the skipper
Clarke says leaders must carry sanctions
Michael Clarke, Steve Smith's predecessor as Australia Test captain, has claimed that if the current skipper is stood down over the ongoing ball-tampering furore then the role could not conceivably be filled by any player who was involved in the decision to cheat.
Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland will address a media conference this afternoon at which questions will be asked about the immediate future of Smith and the senior players that decided to use illegal means to alter the state of the ball in the third Test against South Africa at Cape Town.
Smith indicated in his post-play media conference where he and Cameron Bancroft confessed to their roles in the ploy that he hoped to continue as Australia captain despite the serious lapse in judgement that was made by the team's senior players during the lunch break on Saturday.
Clarke said today that while he would not rush to judge his successor until all evidence relating to the scandal had been gathered and expressed his hope that Smith "can continue to captain Australia" during his playing career, he believes blame needs to be more broadly apportioned.
"If we're going to make a decision on Steve Smith, we have to make the same decision on all of the leadership group," Clarke told Channel Nine's Sports Sunday program this morning.
"If Steve Smith was to be stood down or sacked, you couldn't give the leadership to somebody else in that leadership group because he (Smith) has made it very clear that they made the decision.
"If people need to be sacked, if accountability needs to be shown, unfortunately that's the mistake that's been made.
"In my opinion, what is important is this never happens again in our game."
Clarke agreed with the views of a fellow panelist that throughout the Qantas Tour of South Africa, which has been beset by angry confrontations and on-field disciplinary breaches, the Australia team has presented an unfortunate public image.
"I don't know if they were angry, if they were tired, if they were frustrated – I don't know why, but they were," Clarke said of the team's demeanour since the opening Test at Durban earlier this month.
"Every little thing that has happened on this tour, they've whinged, they've complained, they haven't got their own way.
"I feel like everyone's under pressure in that changeroom, they feel like they need to do something like this to beat South Africa and this is what they've gone to.
"Nobody's thought about it at all."
Clarke said he felt some sympathy for rookie Test batter Cameron Bancroft who faces suspension from the final Test at Johannesburg next week for his central role in the ball tampering affair, noting that the 25-year-old is only eight matches into his Test career.
"I can't believe if the leadership group has made a decision to do this, that they've gone and got the young kid who's playing his eighth Test match to do that," he said.
"As a leader, you can't ask somebody to do something you're not willing to do yourself."
The former Australia captain, who stood down in the wake of Australia's 2015 Ashes loss in the UK, refused to rule out the possibility of returning to cricket saying he would have to consider his answer "if asked by the right people", saying his immediate concern was the game's image in Australia.
He described the on-field actions, at the suggestion of the senior players that Smith declined to identify at his media conference overnight, as "disgraceful" and "premeditated, blatant cheating" that reflected poorly on the entire Australia dressing room.
Clarke claimed it was inherent upon Cricket Australia to take a tough stance over the issue that has drawn shock and outrage from former Australia players, international cricket figures and fans of the game worldwide in order to protect the sport's reputation and integrity.
"The team has made a set plan that we're going to cheat to help us win this game of cricket," he said.
"I'm appalled that it was even thought about.
"This Australian team in my opinion, is still the best team in the world.
"If we need to cheat to beat anyone in any conditions, for any reason there is a deep, deep problem with what we are doing with our sport.
"The last thing I want is for a young boy or a young girl today to go and play cricket and think we have to do this to beat the opposition in under-10s, under-11s, under-12s – you don't.
"You can win in any sport without cheating."
Qantas tour of South Africa
South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Quinton de Kock, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, AB de Villiers.
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights
First Test Australia won by 118 runs. Scorecard
Second Test South Africa won by six wickets. Scorecard
Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26. Live coverage
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage