In a major development, Australia captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were on Wednesday banned by Cricket Australia from playing for the country for a period of one year. Meanwhile, Cameron Bancroft, the third player found guilty in Cricket Australia's preliminary investigations into the ball-tampering scandal which took place during Australia's third Test against South Africa in Cape Town, has received a nine-month ban.
Smith and Warner will also not be able to take part in the upcoming 11th edition of the Indian Premier League, starting April 7, as the ban will restrict them from playing in domestic and international competitions. Both Warner and Smith have already lost their respective IPL captaincies. While Smith was replaced by Ajinkya Rahane as captain of the Rajasthan Royals on Monday, Warner stepped down as Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper today and the franchise has promised to announce his replacement shortly. (Ball-tampering scandal: Cheaters Smith, Warner, Bancroft face 'significant sanctions')
Earlier on Tuesday, Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland announced that Smith, Warner and Bancroft who plotted to cheat in a test in South Africa face "serious sanctions," which could end the international career of at least one of them.
Smith, vice-captain Warner and young batsman Bancroft have been sent home from the tour of South Africa for their roles in planning and carrying out a ball tampering scheme in the third test in Cape Town over the weekend.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland, forced to fly to South Africa to deal with one of the most embarrassing and damaging moments in the history of one of cricket's biggest teams, said he was "angry and disappointed."
He stopped short of announcing any punishments for the three players, though, as an internal investigation into the cheating conspiracy that shocked a country of cricket fans is yet to be completed.
Most of the players and backroom staff had been interviewed by Cricket Australia's integrity chief Iain Roy, Sutherland said. Roy still had to complete his report, but would do so with 24 hours.
Sutherland insisted that initial findings showed Smith, Warner and Bancroft were the only members of the Australian team who had "prior knowledge" of the tampering plot. Coach Darren Lehmann, a target for scrutiny for the Australian media, played no role in the cheating, Sutherland said, and would continue as coach.
Sutherland promised that the immediate cricket fates of Smith, Warner and Bancroft would be known within a day.
The actions of Smith and Warner, the leaders of the team, and Bancroft, a relative newcomer, have also reverberated through the cricketing world. Critics have pounced on the apparent hypocrisy of an Australian team that often held itself up as the moral compass of the game.
Smith, Warner and the remainder of the squad were shadowed at airports by packs of reporters and television crews as they traveled from Cape Town to Johannesburg on Tuesday. One reporter asked Warner repeatedly if he had engaged in ball tampering during the recent Ashes series against England, the biggest contest in cricket.
Smith and Bancroft confessed that, after a discussion during a break in play, they decided they would try to change the condition of the ball during the third test using a piece of yellow adhesive tape and some dirt collected from the side of the pitch. Bancroft was tasked to do the on-field tampering but botched it when he was caught by television cameras doing the tampering and then trying to hide the tape down the front of his trousers. The evidence from the TV cameras was overwhelming.
Tim Paine has taken over as captain of the team for the fourth test in South Africa starting on Friday, with Smith, Warner and Bancroft on a flight home Wednesday morning. Their places in the Australia squad will be taken by Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns, who helped their Queensland state clinch the domestic cricket title on Tuesday, and Glenn Maxwell.