Adam Gilchrist has claimed that the ball tampering furore engulfing the current Test team has rendered Australia the “laughing stock” of world cricket and has expressed doubts as to whether Steve Smith can retain his job as national captain.
Gilchrist, who famously took a stand to engender more ethical on-field behaviour by ‘walking’ during a crucial World Cup semi-final 15 years ago, admitted today that he had been left stunned, shocked and “really saddened” by overnight events in South Africa.
The 46-year-old noted that Australia has been quick to point the finger at rival nations that bend the rules of sport in order to gain an unfair advantage, and he believes that a decision on Smith’s future as captain will be taken out of his hands after the incumbent skipper indicated he had no intention of standing down.
Smith stated that position during a post-play media conference at Newlands where he and teammate Cameron Bancroft admitted the decision to alter the condition of the ball in contravention of cricket’s laws had been arrived at by unnamed senior players during the lunch break.
Gilchrist said he was unaware of the make-up of those senior players and acknowledged that further details will emerge in coming days, but he claimed that Smith’s tenure as captain must be in doubt in light of the revelations to date.
“I’m really sad, shocked, stunned - I’m not trying to over-dramatise it but (I'm) really emotional about this,” Gilchrist said today on Network Ten where he is part of the broadcast coverage of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix.
“Australian cricket now and the integrity of Australian cricket is the laughing stock of world sport.
“This clearly is against the laws of the game and we've just had our national captain and our national team admit that they sat down, premeditated and pre-planned a way to cheat.
“I'm not sure he (Smith) can remain captain.
“I think it's a pretty tough position to hold after you've admitted to what you've admitted to, (to be able to) carry on with any faith from anyone watching.
“We'll wait and see whether he's told, or whether he stands aside.
“Then that implicates the senior playing group - he spoke about the leadership group.
“I don't remember a designated leadership group a la Australian rules football where they name who the leadership group is – (in my day) it was pretty much coach, captain and vice-captain who were the leadership group.
“Match bans or fines, they're going to pale into insignificance if (Smith) loses the captaincy and if players get relieved of those leadership positions.
“It might implicate (David) Warner as vice-captain, I don't know.
“I don't know all the details about this leadership group.”
Former Test batter Simon Katich went further today and claimed that Cricket Australia had “no option” other than to sack Smith, his deputy Warner and coach Darren Lehmann.
Katich, who has been a strong advocate for players and their welfare through his role as a liaison officer with the Australian Cricketers’ Association, said the message sent to aspiring young players about the game’s integrity was far more valuable than senior player roles within the Australia Test team.
“They (CA) have got no option but to sack Smith, Warner and Lehmann,” Katich told Melbourne radio station SEN’s ‘Whateley’ program today.
“This was premeditated, it was calculated at the (lunch) break – those guys are in charge of Cameron Bancroft behaving the way he did.
“He (Bancroft) will cop a fine and Test match suspension through the match referee because he executed it, but it’s a bigger problem than that.
“He’s been instructed to do this, and anyone in cricket knows that the coach and the captain are in control of what happens in a team.
“I love Steve Smith, he’s a fantastic player but unfortunately he’s made a serious error of judgement and I think it’s going to cost him the captaincy of Australia because the bigger picture is far more important.
“If CA come out of this and condone sledging, they condone blatant cheating then the message they send to the thousands of kids who aspire to wear the Baggy Green (Cap) … is far worse than the message of a few guys losing their jobs.”
Gilchrist said he also held some sympathy for the current player group in South Africa, given the sense of fraternity that unites cricketers and having an acute appreciation of the scrutiny that comes with playing sport at the highest level.
But he added that having made the conscious decision to go outside the laws of the game in their admitted attempt to win the current Test against a dominant opponent, they needed to be held publicly accountable for their actions.
Which he believes will result in them suffering a heavy defeat across the final two days at Newlands before the final Test begins at Wanderers at Johannesburg next Friday.
“I do think about the players, I try to put my former player's hat on,” Gilchrist said today.
“They will be feeling at the bottom of the rungs here, they will be shattered and disappointed.
“They've made bad decisions, and I don't want to sit here and sink the slipper into them in any way but they've got to face up to what they've done and the decisions they've made.
“I know that whoever runs out with the Baggy Green on, they're going to be disappointed and frustrated.
“In all likelihood, I think they're going to get blown away in this Test match.”
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