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PIX: Disgraced trio return to Australia; Lehmann resigns

March 29, 2018 20:57 IST

'It was a failure of leadership, of my leadership, I'll do anything I can to make up for my mistake'

'I lied. I lied about the sandpaper'

David Warner

IMAGE: Australian Test cricketer David Warner and family arrives at Sydney International Airport. Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were flown back to Australia following investigations into alleged ball tampering in South Africa. Photograph: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Steve Smith fought back sobs as he claimed full responsibility for the ball-tampering scandal that destroyed his reputation, while David Warner and Cameron Bancroft also offered their apologies for the scandal that plunged Australian cricket into turmoil.

 

Australia coach Darren Lehmann said, on Thursday,  he would step down after this week's Test match against South Africa, as he took ultimate responsibility for the culture of a team embroiled in a ball-tampering scandal that has rocked the sport.

Smith was unable to complete his news conference at Sydney Airport and was ushered out of the room after a short display of raw emotion during which he repeatedly apologised for his misjudgement.

Batsman Bancroft spoke of his shame on his arrival in Perth and former vice captain Warner, took to social media to apologise for his role in the cheating.

Steven Smith

IMAGE: Australian Test cricketer Steve Smith is comforted by his father Peter as he confronts the media at Sydney International Airport . Photograph: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

"To all of my team mates, to fans of cricket all over the world and to Australians who are angry and disappointed, I'm sorry," Smith told reporters in a prepared statement.

"It was a failure of leadership, of my leadership, I'll do anything I can to make up for my mistake and the damage it has caused," he added, breaking down for the first time.

"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."

David Warner

IMAGE: Australian Test cricketer David Warner, his wife Candice and young children arrive at Sydney International Airport. Photograph: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Warner, who was identified as the instigator of the attempt to cheat by the Cricket Australia probe, broke his silence via Instagram, apologising and taking responsibility for his 'part' in the scandal.

"I understand the distress this has caused the sport and its fans," the opening batsman wrote. "It's a stain on the game we all love and I have loved since I was a boy."

Cameron Bancroft

IMAGE: WACA CEO Christina Matthews consoles Cameron Bancroft while addressing the media. Bancroft returns home to Perth after being banned by Cricket Australia following his part in the ball tampering scandal in South Africa. Photograph: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Bancroft confessed to having lied about using sticky tape rather than sandpaper to scuff the ball in Cape Town in the news conference immediately after the incident last Saturday.

"I lied. I lied about the sandpaper," the 25-year-old told reporters. "I panicked in that situation and I'm very sorry. I feel like I've let everyone down in Australia."

After four days of almost universal condemnation for the trio in Australia, the severity of the punishments brought some support.

Spin-bowling great Shane Warne, while condemning the cheating, said the hysteria whipped up by anti-Australian feeling around the cricketing world had led to overly harsh punishments.

"The hysteria has gone world wide, and everyone that dislikes the way the Australian cricket team has played ... has been given the opportunity to lay the boots in," he said.

Steven Smith

IMAGE: Steve Smith before facing the media at Sydney International Airport. Photograph: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

One of those was former Australia and current Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur, who wrote that the scandal was an inevitable result of an unwillingness to improve the culture in the country's entire cricket set-up.

"An incident like this had to happen for the necessary cultural shift to take place. Australian cricket has been in an ivory tower for too long," he said.

The incident has also triggered an International Cricket Council (ICC) review of the players' code of conduct to curb on-field misdemeanours.

"What happened down there has certainly created additional urgency that something needs to be done as quickly as possible," chief executive David Richardson said on Thursday.

Better behaviour will be expected when Smith's replacement Tim Paine leads out the team in the fourth Test in Johannesburg on Friday, looking to even up the series at 2-2 but most importantly start restoring the good name of Australian cricket.

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