Steve Smith, struggling to contain his emotions and at one point breaking down completely, faced the cameras for the first time since being stripped of the Australian #cricket captaincy to issue a heartfelt apology for his role in the ball tampering affair that has rocked the sport.
Having been handed a 12-month ban and been sent home from South Africa by Cricket Australia, a devastated Smith touched down in Sydney on Thursday night and faced the music shortly afterwards in a highly-charged airport press conference room.
He repeatedly stated how “deeply sorry” he was for his actions, a sentiment Cameron Bancroft had expressed earlier in the evening when he landed in Perth and fronted the media. David Warner, the third of the trio charged with ball tampering in the third Test in Cape Town, was also on his way back to Sydney, although he was not expected to face the media. Instead he issued a statement on social media en route, admitting such behaviour was a “stain on the game”.
Smith said that, as captain of the team, he took full responsibility for what happened on the pitch in Cape Town and refused to lay blame at anyone else’s door, deflecting a question about his relationship with Warner.
“I made a serious error of judgment and I take the consequences,” he said. “It was a failure of my leadership. I will do everything to make up for my mistake and the damage it has caused. If it can be a lesson for others, I hope I can be a force for change. Cricket is the greatest game in the world. It’s my life and I hope it can be again.”
He broke down completely as he spoke of the impact the affair had had on his parents over the last few days, and was ushered out of the room soon after.
Warner, who was identified by Cricket Australia as the architect of the events that unfolded during the third Test in Cape Town, where the three players conspired to alter the state of the ball with sandpaper, had earlier made his first public comments since also being stripped of the vice-captaincy and banned for 12 months.
Addressing “cricket fans in Australia and all over the world”, he wrote: “Mistakes have been made which have damaged cricket. I apologise for my part and take responsibility for it. I understand the distress this has caused the sport and its fans.
“It’s a stain on the game we all love and I have loved since I was a boy. I need to take a deep breath and spend time with my family, friends and trusted advisors.”
Warner was not expected to immediately face the media after he suggested in his message that he intends to lie low for immediate future. “You will hear from me in a few days,” he wrote.
Bancroft, the player caught by television cameras holding the smoking gun – the yellow piece of sandpaper – and the third Australian to be sanctioned following the affair, flew into Perth.
“The thing that breaks my heart the most is that I’ve given up my spot in the team for free. People know I worked so hard to get to this point in my career and to have given up that chance for free is devastating.
“I lied about the sandpaper. I panicked in that situation and I’m very sorry.”