Peter Lalor in The Australian, 28 March 2019, where the title runs “Fourth Test in doubt amid claims players want to abandon tour”
Australia’s cricket team is in upheaval and players want to quit the tour of South Africa and abandon the fourth and final Test, a former player says. Gavin Robertson told Fox Sports News on Tuesday night that morale within the dressing room is so bad that players don’t want to play in the next Test, which begins on Friday. “They are going to break apart in the next couple days,” he told Fox Sports’ Bill and Boz. “I spoke to people this morning, the players don’t want to play the test. Generally, they don’t feel like playing because they are absolutely gutted.”
The team has cancelled Wednesday night’s training session as players and officials reel from the banishment of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft over the ball tempering scandal.
Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) president Greg Dyer has taken a veiled swipe at Cricket Australia (CA), saying the governing body must also be held accountable for the team’s culture, AAP reports.
As the fallout from Australian cricket’s explosive cheating scandal continues, CA has committed to setting up an independent review into “the conduct and culture” of the men’s teams. Full details are yet to be revealed but it will be undertaken by an expert panel that will report to the CA board.
Australian team cancels tomorrow’s training session. This is a team in mourning. Extraordinary.
The aggressive behaviour of the Australian team has long been a concern with coach Darren Lehmann accused of allowing a ruthless team mentality to go largely unchecked. CA chief James Sutherland has confirmed Lehmann will remain in his job but Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft face lengthy bans over the ball-tampering incident in Cape Town.
It remains unclear whether there will also be implications for Sutherland and high performance manager Pat Howard, who is leading an investigation into the incident along with integrity chief Iain Roy. The players’ union has called for the review of the team’s culture to extend to the top of the chain. “This assessment must include all contributing parties to this culture; players, coaches and administrators, programs and systems, behaviours and accountabilities,” Dyer said in a statement today.
“Australia’s core values of respect, integrity and fairness must be brought to bear on the game of cricket through such a process. The ACA offers its full endeavours to an independent cultural examination, diagnosis and ultimately remedy which must occur in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.” Relations between CA and the ACA remain tense after last year’s ugly pay dispute.
Months of acrimonious negotiations finally ended in August last year when CA and the ACA agreed to a major new deal, but not before threats from both sides including talk of an Ashes boycott by players.
Nicholson said “very serious mistakes, contrary to the spirit of cricket” had been made in Cape Town.
“The players are remorseful for the mistakes they have made,” he said. “And they regret how their actions have represented themselves, teammates, cricket and their country.” The ACA is providing players with legal and welfare support.
Feud erupts, new players fly in
A fierce feud has erupted within the Australian cricket team as Steve Smith and David Warner face suspensions and the first of the replacement players jetted out last night to take part in the fourth Test on Friday, Peter Lalor writes. Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland this morning announced Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft will catch a plane to Australia today after the preliminary findings into the ball tampering scandal.
The punishments come after a massive falling-out between Warner and Australia’s fast bowlers. The split was sparked by Warner’s alleged testimony to Cricket Australia’s integrity officers in Cape Town. Bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood were livid that they had been linked to the ball-tampering scandal. Warner is understood to have removed himself from the players’ group on WhatsApp, in the wake of his teammates’ belief he was willing to blame them to take the heat off his own role in the controversy.
As the Test team flew to Johannesburg to prepare for the fourth Test, starting on Friday, former captain Steve Waugh made his thoughts public for the first time, expressing his sadness at the turn of events and his concern for those involved.
“The Australian cricket team has always believed it could win in any situation against any opposition, by playing combative, skilful and fair cricket, driven by our pride in the fabled baggy green,” Waugh said yesterday.
“I have no doubt the current Australian team continues to believe in this mantra, however some have now failed our culture, making a serious error of judgment in the Cape Town Test match.”
Waugh said a “focused and balanced perspective” was needed “in the condemnation on those involved in this, with a clear and critical consideration to the social impact and mental health of all players”.
Cricket Australia confirmed yesterday that Queensland opener Matthew Renshaw was flying out to take disgraced captain Smith’s place in the side. Renshaw left the country after playing a part in Queensland’s win in the Sheffield Shield final in Brisbane yesterday. Smith, who stood down as skipper after admitting to taking part in the conspiracy to damage the ball, was given a one-match ban under the ICC’s code of conduct after the match.
Glenn Maxwell and Joe Burns will also fly out to replace Warner and Bancroft.
Cricket Australia is expected to hand down more severe punishments to the three players, but it must charge them and conduct hearings first. Both Warner and Smith are expecting bans of up to a year.
Smith cut a forlorn figure as the side gathered to leave Cape Town yesterday.
The players have sought counsel from a senior South African lawyer organised though the Australian Cricketers Association, but there is anger in the ranks.
Warner is angry that the focus is on him and he feels like a scapegoat. The strains between him and the rest of the side are showing. There are also concerns that Smith and Bancroft are struggling to cope with fallout from the scandal.
Smith and Warner were inundated by media at airports when they flew yesterday. Smith wore dark sunglasses.
Smith has been erased from the website of his personal sponsor, Weet-Bix. He was featured on the cereal’s home page until recently. Weet-Bix owner Sanitarium — a wholly owned subsidiary of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church — says it is awaiting the results of the investigation by Cricket Australia. “We are interested in the detail of their investigation and the actions Cricket Australia will take on this matter,” said Sanitarium, which counts Smith as a brand ambassador.
“Like the rest of Australia, we have been incredibly disappointed by the actions taken by the team over the weekend in South Africa.”
Smith also stood down from the captaincy of the Rajasthan Royals franchise, which was due to pay him $2.4 million for this year’s tournament.
Warner receives the same from the Sunrisers Hyderabad. Both franchises were, like the sponsors, awaiting the results of the investigation before acting but they are expected to sack both players.
Smith, Warner and Bancroft are in the immediate firing line and coach Darren Lehmann is not far removed from it. Lehmann has been widely criticised for not speaking since the events of Saturday. The coach has been told he cannot speak while the investigation is ongoing. There is speculation he may step down if he is not pushed.