As confessions go, the Australian cricket captain's could hardly have been more fulsome. "The leadership knew about it, we spoke about it at lunch. I'm not proud of what's happened, it's not in the spirit of the game, said Steve Smith. "My integrity, the team's integrity, the leadership group's integrity has come into question and rightfully so.
"It's certainly not on and it won't happen again, I can promise you, under my leadership."
Exactly. No critic could state more plainly what he and his team have done to his and their reputation. As to whether it can happen again under his leadership, that is up to those responsible for the reputation of Australian cricket and its representation of Australia. Smith and his deputy David Warner were last night stood down from their captaincy roles, but still took the field, as an investigation takes place. It is for Australians to say how severe the ultimate penalty will be. It is their sporting name the national cricket team has disgraced and the scale of the punishment will reflect how sporting that name really is.
Good sports play hard, they play to win but they play fair. They play within the rules, pushing them to the limit sometimes. But they don't deliberately set out to cheat. Smith admits he and the team leaders discussed ball-tampering at the lunch break in their current test in South Africa. They must have expected to be able to do this without being caught by one of the many video cameras placed around the ground that provide television coverage of cricket, including on big screens at the venues.
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Now the whole cricketing world has seen one of his players, Cameron Bancroft, a relative newcomer to test cricket, with a strip of something yellow in his hands, trying to conceal it in his underwear during the afternoon session. After the day's play, Smith faced a press conference and took full responsibility, though he did not at that time think he needed to relinquish the captaincy.
He is not the only one who should go. Though Smith said the regrettable decision was made entirely by the leading players and not the coaching staff, it is hard to believe coach Darren Lehmann was not aware of it. If he was not, he should have been aware, and should share responsibility. The head coach is in a position to demand the standards he expects of a team.
Cricket is Australia's truly national game, the one played and followed in every part of the country. It's a game in which Australia excels — no other nation can match its record of success for as long as the game has been played. It has not always been played in the finest spirit, verbal "sledging" of batsmen has long been part of the Australian game and sometimes the will to win has gone too far. The underarm incident comes to mind. But that was not against the laws of the game at the time.
The ball tampering in South Africa is being called Australian cricket's "darkest hour". Even its toughest competitors of the past are probably as appalled and embarrassed as Shane Warne in the commentary box in South Africa. Heads must roll to prove Australia is better than this.