Australia head coach Darren Lehmann has called for disgraced trio Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft to be given a second chance despite more damning details of their roles in the ball-tampering scandal emerging.
Smith and Warner were both handed one-year bans by Cricket Australia (CA) and Cameron Bancroft, who was caught attempting to doctor the ball with sandpaper, not tape, during the third Test with South Africa on Saturday, a ninth-month suspension.
Lehmann, who was cleared of any wrongdoing on Tuesday, broke his silence on the affair, which has rocked the cricketing world, and acknowledged that his side need to change its long-term approach to the game in a bid to restore trust.
“The players have made a grave mistake but they are not bad people,” said Lehmann. “There is a human side to this. They are hurting and I feel for them and their families. They are young men and I hope people will give them a second chance.
“We know we have let so many people down. We are truly sorry. There is a need for us to change the way we play. We need to work to bring the respect back from the fans.”
Cricket Australia concluded that Warner was the instigator of the plan to artificially alter the condition of the ball in Cape Town, instructing a junior player – Bancroft – to carry out the idea and advising him how it could be done.
Smith, meanwhile, was found to have known about the plan, directed the concealment of the evidence on the field of play, misled match officials and made misleading public comments. Bancrofts public comments on Saturday were also found to be misleading.
“This has caused damage to the game as a whole and certainly to Cricket Australia. It has compromised the fans faith in cricket and its our responsibility to reinstate that confidence,” said CA chief executive James Sutherland.
“It appears to be an isolated incident but if there are any other allegations we will take them further. There was some courage in owning up but there was an element of untruth and thats something we took into consideration.”
The ban covers international and Australian domestic cricket, while Warner will not be considered for “any team leadership positions in the future”. Smith and Bancroft have been suspended from captaining Australia for at least the next two years.
Smith and Warner have had their lucrative Indian Premier League contracts with Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad cancelled.