Darren Lehmann, the former Australia coach, keeps in touch with and worries about the trio of players banned for ball tampering. Former captain Steven Smith, former vice-captain David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft are “bloody good human beings”, and Lehmann hopes they’ll be forgiven their cricketing transgressions by everyone in time.
“They are all good young men, I feel for the three players especially. I worry about them day-in, day-out,” Lehmann told Adelaide-based Radio FIVEaa. “I hope they come back and play for Australia because they’re fantastic young men and they’ve paid the price.
“For me Australian cricket is the most important thing and hopefully everyone can get back and play the right type of cricket that makes everyone respect and enjoy the Australian cricket team again. It has been a tough six weeks for myself, but I put myself in David Warner’s shoes, Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith… they’ve been to hell and back, haven’t they?
“Hopefully, everyone forgives them. I’m sure they will. They’re bloody good human beings and I love them dearly. I speak to them quite a lot. It’s a case of keeping in contact because I worry about them. They’re going okay.”
Smith, Warner and Bancroft received bans from Cricket Australia in late March for their part in the ball-tampering affair on the tour to South Africa. Smith and Warner will only be available to play for Australia in April 2019, about two months out from the World Cup. Bancroft, meanwhile, will be eligible by January 2019. The three were also banned from leadership roles in Australian cricket to varying degrees: Warner for life, Smith and Bancroft for a year after their bans from playing lift. Lehmann was cleared of wrongdoing in the matter by CA, but stepped down voluntarily after Smith’s anguished presser got to him.
Former Australia captain Mark Taylor also spoke out in support of Smith, saying he reckoned Smith could return to the captaincy in future. “I still think Steve Smith can captain Australia,” Taylor told television show Sports Sunday. “Steve Smith to me is not a cheat. Steve Smith was guilty of negligence in my opinion. He saw something going on and he didn’t stamp it out. That’s a mistake of negligence. He’s not a cheat, he’s a very good person.
“I think if he ever does come back and captain Australia it will make him a better captain.”
Australia’s new coach Justin Langer, soon after being appointed last week, said the three players will be “welcomed back” after their bans, if they show the inclination to be back. “Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith, literally besides Mike Hussey, love the game more than anyone I know,” Langer had said. “They are cricket tragics, and they’re great kids. That’s why it was such a surprise they made the mistake they did. Davey Warner is the same. He’s a really good young bloke, he made a mistake. I love the way he plays his cricket. If we can keep mentoring and helping them and they want to get better and meet the standards of the Australian cricket team, of course they will be welcomed back.”
Yesterday, Warner said he has “learned a valuable lesson” from the episode. Two days ago, Smith had posted a photo on Instagram saying he was back in Australia after a break and he had “come to terms with” his situation.