Australia captain Steve Smith, his deputy David Warner and Cameron Bancroft are being sent home from the South Africa tour in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal that has shaken the sport but coach Darren Lehmann was not involved, Cricket Australia said on Tuesday.
Lehmann has been given a clean chit for the time being, as Cricket Australia concluded its preliminary investigations on Tuesday.
Tim Paine will captain Australia in the final Test match with reinforcements in middle-order batsman Glenn Maxwell along with openers Joe Burns and Matt Renshaw scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.
"All three players (Smith, Warner, Bancroft) that have been reported will leave tomorrow. Renshaw, Maxwell and Burns will arrive in South Africa in the next 24 hours," CA chief executive James Sutherland told a packed media conference here this evening.
"Tim Paine has been officially appointed captain of the Test team," he added.
Sutherland informed that apart from the trio, no other player in the group had any prior knowledge about the wrongdoing.
"Contrary to inaccurate reports, Darren has not resigned. He had no prior knowledge," confirmed Sutherland.
Questioned whether Lehmann offered to resign, Sutherland replied: "As far as I am aware no he has not, at least not to me."
"No other players or support staff had prior knowledge and this includes coach Darren Lehmann who had no prior knowledge. He will continue to coach the national team under his current contract," said the former first-class player.
He made it clear that tough sanctions awaited the trio after full inquiry is complete.
"We are contemplating significant sanctions in each case of the three players. These sanctions will reflect the gravity of what occurred and the damage it has done Australian cricket. Urgency must be balanced with due process."
"We have conducted an investigation, we have made reports and sanctions will be issued tomorrow. They will be significant. They will reflect the gravity of the situation," he added.
Sutherland said that he was angry but maintained that it was "an isolated incident of significant concern."
"I share the disappointment of the fans. We have had a board meeting today, Cricket Australia share these same feelings. I want to apologise to all Australians that this happened, particularly to all the kids that love cricket and idolise the players."
'It’s not a good day for Australian cricket,” said Sutherland, who has travelled to South Africa to sort out the scandal sparked by Saturday’s incident.
“It was not in the laws of the game and not in the spirit of the game,” he added.
He also declined to comment on Australian media speculation that Warner, the combative opener at the centre of a fracas in the first test in Durban with South African keeper Quinton de Kock, was at the heart of the decision to tamper with the ball.
He said that he is aware about the impact of the damage done by the trio and corrective measures will be taken.
"I would not underestimate the damage this does to the game. What we are about as an organisation is cricket. If this has damaged the ability of cricket then it's a sorry state and we must do everything we can to repair it."
The ramifications of the scandal have been far reaching with the Marylebone Cricket Club, the guardian of the laws of the game, calling for a "major shift in attitude" to preserve the game for future generations.
Soon after both Smith and Bancroft admitted that they did try to tamper with the ball, with Smith stating that the ‘Leadership group' was aware of it, the cricket fraternity condemned the players involved.
Bancroft was seen rubbing the ball with a yellow object (sandpaper) on the third day of the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town.
Bancroft then discussed the same with umpires Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth, but the umpires neither took any action nor changed the ball.
Read below the complete Cricket Australia Statement:
The Cricket Australia Board has received preliminary findings of the investigation into last weekend’s events in Cape Town involving the Australian Men’s Cricket Team.
Following this, Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland has officially reported Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft for breaching article 2.3.5 of Cricket Australia’s Code of Conduct.
All three players reported will depart South Africa tomorrow. The replacement players will fly to Johannesburg over the next 24 hours to join the squad for the Fourth Test against South Africa.
The three replacement players are Matthew Renshaw, Glenn Maxwell and Joe Burns.
The Cricket Australia Board has endorsed Tim Paine as Captain of the Australian Men’s Test Team.
Sanctions are expected to be announced within the next 24 hours.
The preliminary findings have confirmed that prior knowledge of the incident in Cape Town was confined to only the three players reported.
Cricket Australia Chairman, David Peever said:
“We understand and share the anger of fans and the broader Australian community about the events that unfolded in Cape Town on Saturday.
“This issue goes beyond the technical nature of the offences and various codes of conduct. It is about the integrity and reputation of Australian Cricket and Australian sport.
“Ultimately, it is about whether Australians can feel proud of their national sporting teams.
“That depends as much on the way the players conduct themselves, as it does about winning or losing.
“It is about how we play the game,” Peever concluded.
Cricket Australia CEO, James Sutherland said:
“In view of the broader reputational and integrity issues involved, the sanctions that will be contemplated are significant. The process must therefore be thorough to ensure that all relevant issues have been examined.
“I understand the appetite for urgency given the reputation of Australia as a sporting nation has been damaged in the eyes of many. However, urgency must be balanced with due process given the serious implications for all involved.
“In addition to sanctions for individuals, Cricket Australia will initiate an independent review into the conduct and culture of our Australian men’s teams.
“We will have more to say about this review in the coming days, but it will be conducted by an expert panel who will report to the Cricket Australia Board,” Sutherland concluded.
Mr Sutherland also indicated strong support for ICC Chief Executive Officer David Richardson’s comments on Sunday that the game needs to have a hard look at itself, to improve standards of behaviour across the board.