It was impossible not to feel at least a pang of sympathy for Steve Smith as he broke down in front of the world during his press conference. He is clearly distraught, sorry and regretful over what has happened.
Yet, so he should be. He has brought himself, his team and his country into disrepute. His ignorance over the severity of what was taking place and of his own actions in the aftermath has led him directly to where he is now. He will forever have to live with the burden of being a cheat and this will follow him every time he steps onto a cricket field for the remainder of his career.
He had several opportunities to avert the crisis which has engulfed him. He could have nipped the plan to take sandpaper to the ball in Cape Town in the bud. But he didn’t.
He could have been honest with the umpires on the field when they asked him and Cameron Bancroft what was going on. When Bancroft produced his sunglasses cloth for a pair of sunglasses that he wasn’t even wearing, Smith could have come out with the truth. But he didn’t.
He could have been honest in the press conference, coming clean about the sandpaper and the names of those involved. He chose instead to talk about a ‘leadership group’ hatching and implementing a plan to cheat.
He had three opportunities on the day of the fiasco to be honest, but he chose not to be.
There is also the rank possibility that he has kept up the lies. In declaring that this is the only instance of ball tampering that has occurred during his tenure as captain of Australia, he best be being totally honest. The footage will be scoured and rumours will abound, for it is somewhat challenging to believe that this was the side’s first rodeo when it comes to dabbling in the dark arts.
If further instances are uncovered, then Smith’s reputation and credibility will be left completely in tatters.
There is also the burning issue of Dave Warner in all this. Warner is the one who is coming out of this worst of all. He’s a deeply unpopular cricketer and it’s easy, even comforting, to believe that he was the brains behind the whole operation. He’s clearly going down, but will he look to take anyone with him? At the very least, Warner has an explosive autobiography in him!
I feel for Smith on a human level. He’s made a mistake and is showing genuine contrition, but then he shouldn’t be feeling good about this. He’s brought all of this on himself.
I firmly believe that he’s the best Test batsman in operation today and it is a great shame that he won’t be playing when India land in Australia later this year.
The 12-month ban achieves nothing. The only way Smith can atone for his grave misjudgement is out in the middle. He needs to face the music and he needs to prove that this was aberration.
It is an aberration, however, that he should rightly be feeling thoroughly ashamed and humiliated by.
By Miles Reucroft