A devastated Steve Smith has broken down as he admitted the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal was a failure of his leadership.
Smith arrived back in Sydney today after being banned for 12 months and stripped of the Australian captaincy for at least two years.
"I want to, as captain of the Australian cricket team, I take full responsibility," he said. "I made a serious error in judgement.
"It was a failure of leadership, my leadership.
"I will do everything I can to make up for my mistake and the damage it’s caused.
"If any good is to come from this it can be a lesson for others and I hope I can be a force for change.
"I know I’ll regret this for the rest of my life. I’m absolutely gutted."
Smith fronted a packed press conference at Sydney International Airport, with father Peter standing behind him in support, and delivered a heartbreaking message before breaking down when mentioning the impact the saga has had on his family.
"I say two things, or three things," he said. "Firstly, I'm deeply sorry. I love the game of cricket, I love entertaining young kids, I love kids wanting to play the great game of cricket that I love.
"The two other things is that, any time you think about making a questionable decision, think about who you're affecting, you're affecting your parents.
"To see the way my old man's been ... it hurts. I just want to say I'm sorry for the pain that I've brought to Australia and the fans and the public, it's devastating and I'm truly sorry.
"I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness, I've been so privileged and honoured to represent my country and captain the Australian cricket team.
"Cricket is the greatest game in the world. It's been my life, and I hope it can be again.
"I'm sorry and I'm absolutely devastated."
Cricket Australia’s investigation into the ball-tampering incident on day three of the third Test at Newlands found that Smith was aware of the plan to artificially alter the condition of the ball.
While the findings revealed it was David Warner who devised the plan to rough up the ball with sandpaper, a task he enlisted to Test rookie Cameron Bancroft, Smith says he doesn’t blame anyone but himself.
"I’m the captain of the Australian team," he said. "It’s on my watch and I take responsibility of the actions of what happened last Saturday in Cape Town."
While Australia have lost their captain, the world's No.1 Test batsman, a two-time Allan Border Medallist and an ICC Cricketer of the Year award-winner, coach Darren Lehmann said yesteday the national men's team has lost a whole lot more.
"We've lost a great young man that's again made a mistake," Lehmann said. "We all love him, the public love him. At the moment obviously it's hard for him and his family. I feel for him.
"He's going to come back a better person there's no doubt about that, and to see the hurt in him over the last three or four days I've spent a lot of time with him, just being around him, you feel for him."
As part of his sanction, Smith is required to undertake 100 hours of voluntary service in community cricket, and despite the turmoil that has engulfed him in the past week, the 28-year-old has already thought about how he can give back to the community, according to CA chief executive James Sutherland.
"I know speaking to him today (Wednesday) before he left, he actually said with a smile on his face when we were talking about the community service and working at club cricket, he said with a smile on his face ‘I’ll be doing that anyway’, which I think says a lot about him."
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: Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, Matt Renshaw, 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 South Africa won by 322 runs. Scorecard
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage