In a shocking announcement, Darren Lehmann on Thursday said he is quitting from his role as the head coach of the Australia national men's cricket team. The decision comes in wake of the ball-tampering scandal that has rocked Australian cricket as well as the cricketing fraternity across the world.
Lehmann said he came to his decision after watching news coverage of Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft returning home having confessed to cheating in the third test last weekend. A tearful Lehmann insisted the decision to quit was his, and he was not fired by his bosses over the scandal that has plunged the team into crisis. (Also Read: Steve Smith breaks down while addressing media in Sydney)
Captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and opening batsman Bancroft all received bans. However, the 48-year-old Lehmann was on Tuesday cleared by Cricket Australia of any wrongdoing in the ball-tampering row which took place during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town.
The fourth Test, which starts on Friday at the Wanderers, will be his last Test in charge.
"Saying goodbye to the players was the toughest thing I've ever had to do," Lehmann said while reading a statement.
"I just want to let you know this will be by my last Test as head coach if the Australian cricket team as I'm stepping down," said Lehmann, reading from a prepared statement. "After seeing events in the media today with Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft, the feeling is that Australian cricket needs to move forward and this is the right thing to do." (Also Read: David Warner apologises on social media)
"I really felt for Steve, as I saw him crying in front of the media, and all the players are really hurting. As I stated before I had no prior knowledge of the incident and do not condone what happened. But good people can make mistakes.
"My family and I have copped a lot of abuse over the last week and it's taken its toll on them. As many who sit in this room will know life on the road means a long time away from our loved ones and after speaking to my family at length over the last few days it's the right time to step away.
"I'm ultimately responsible for the culture of the team and I've been thinking about my position for a while. Despite telling media yesterday that I'm not resigning, after viewing Steve and Cameron hurting it's only fair that I make this decision. (Also Read: Teary-eyed Cameron Bancroft asks for forgiveness)
"This will allow Cricket Australia to make a full review into the culture of the team and allow them to implement changes to regain the trust of the Australian public. This is the right thing for Australian cricket," he concluded.
Lehmann took over as coach of the Australian team following the sacking of Mickey Arthur in 2013. Under Lehmann's watch, Australia won the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
Earlier today, Lehmann apologised for the cheating scandal, saying his team had let down many people but that he also hoped people would give them a second chance.
"The players involved have been handed down very serious sanctions and they know they must face the consequences. They've made a grave mistake but they are not bad people," he told reporters at a news conference in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
"These are young men and I hope people will give them a second chance. Their health and well-being is extremely important to us," said Lehmann.
Former captain Steve Smith and former vice-captain David Warner were banned for 12 months on Wednesday after an investigation identified Warner as the instigator of the ball tampering plan that unravelled in South Africa.
Cricket Australia said Warner "instructed" young batsman Cameron Bancroft to carry out the tampering on the field with a piece of sandpaper, even showed Bancroft how to do it, then misled match officials and tried to cover up his role in the cheating.
Smith, the top test batsman in the world and the star of Australian cricket, knew about the plan.
But the captain failed "to take steps to seek to prevent the development and implementation of that plan," Cricket Australia said as it released the findings of the investigation by its head of integrity that dragged in all the players, coaches and backroom staff for questioning.
Smith and Warner were banned from playing for Australia, or any high-level cricket in Australia, for a year.
Bancroft, maybe because he's an impressionable newcomer in the team, received a nine-month ban.