Bans for Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft won’t truly hit home until they are forced to watch their Australian team-mates play Test matches on home soil this summer, the Cricket Australia Board director Mark Taylor said.
Smith, Warner and Bancroft made their returns to competitive cricket via the modest avenues of second tier Twenty20 tournaments in Canada and the Northern Territory over the weekend, and all spoke about experiencing a mess of emotions over the three months since they were suspended by CA for their roles in the Newlands ball-tampering scandal.
However Taylor stated bluntly that the full ramifications of their bans would not be felt until the home season, when all will miss a four-Test series against India in December and January, with two Tests against Sri Lanka to follow. Taylor, part of the CA Board that deliberated on their penalties, described the sanctions as “extremely harsh but extremely fair”.
“The next nine months are going to be extremely tough for him [Smith], for David Warner and for Cameron Bancroft, because they’re going to have to watch more of the Australian side right through the summer, here in Australia,” Taylor told Channel Nine. “That will really hurt. It hurt Steve Smith watching them play in England and lose, when they [the team] are playing in Australia it’s going to be really tough for them [the banned trio] when they’re not playing.
“But in the long run I think it’s good for all three of them. He made a bad mistake, as did the other two guys, three or four months ago, and he’s paying a very high price for it. I think the penalty they’ve received is very harsh but very fair, and I think we’ve now set a tone for world cricket that we’re not going to allow this sort of cheating to go on.”
Following Smith’s comments about mental fatigue leading him to make “horrible decisions”, questions have been raised about whether CA was attentive enough to the draining effects of the home Ashes series that preceded South Africa. Taylor said there had been attempts to confront the team about player behaviour after the first Test of the series in Durban.
“Sometimes you’ve almost got to hit rock bottom to get better,” Taylor said. “After the Ashes in Australia where they won 4-0, they won the T20 competition in New Zealand, I think everyone thought they were going wonderfully well. There were obviously things going on in the back of the brain which weren’t great for Steve, Dave and for Cam, particularly for Steve and David our captain and vice-captain. Unfortunately it led to them tampering with the ball and Steve not doing enough about the tampering with the ball.
“They were talked to about it – Pat Howard went from Australia to South Africa to talk to the team about that sort of behaviour, we need to tone things down. But it still doesn’t stop that one moment where two guys in the changeroom say we’re going to do something about changing the condition of the ball. It’s obviously become a huge story but it comes down to one moment.
“The other thing they could have done, Darren Lehmann, Pat Howard and the selectors could have said ‘we’ll just leave those three guys out of that next Test match, just drop them, leave them out because we think they’re mentally not right’. How would that have gone down? You’d be sitting here saying ‘what are they doing, that’s our captain, vice-captain and opening batsman’.”
Nevertheless, Taylor recognised the fact that the weight of the Australian captaincy had eventually brought down Smith and each of his two predecessors, Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting, as all wrestled with the dual burdens of being the team’s leader and also most accomplished batsman.
“I think we’ve had trouble with that in recent times, we saw that with Ricky Ponting towards the end of his playing days, when the captain is that good a player,” he said. “I was lucky, I wasn’t that good, but they feel at times, Steve was definitely the case, Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting, all a bit the same, feel they have to make the bulk of the runs as well.
“They’ve obviously got to keep a spot in the side, but really you’re just one of 11 batsmen in the side. I think that position of Australian captain is so closely scrutinised, if you also think you have to be the best player and the best leader it’s a big load to carry.”