In the aftermath of the biggest crisis to hit Australian cricket in recent memory, CaughtOutCricket examines five key talking points that remain in the public spotlight.
Will Steve Smith and David Warner play for Australia again?
After both were handed twelve-month bans by Cricket Australia (CA) for their involvements in the ball-tampering incident there is a case to suggest that neither man – Australia’s two leading batsmen – will ever represent their country again.
While that’s perhaps wide of the mark for former captain Smith – who has a relatively clean rap sheet up until now – the future isn’t quite so bright for Warner who carries plenty of previous baggage when it comes to crossing the line.
The early indications are that Warner, who CA said was the chief instigator in devising the ball-tampering plan, is expected to challenge his ban in the next seven days as he fights for his international future. Reports coming out of ESPNcricinfo suggest that Warner could be forced out of the national setup completely – similar to the way the ECB disposed of Kevin Pietersen after a disastrous Ashes campaign four years ago.
Even if Warner did find himself back in favour of the national setup, its been confirmed that he will never hold another leadership position, Smith on the other hand is banned from captaining the side again for at least 24 months.
While CA have come down particularly harsh on each player, its Warner who’s become the scapegoat especially among his fellow teammates and staff members.
With the twelve-month hiatus including no participation in the IPL or any domestic or international cricket associated with CA, it appears a long road back for Smith and Warner.
Who is the next long-term captain?
When it was decided that both Smith and Warner would be stepped down from their leadership roles with immediate effect on the fourth morning of the recent Newlands Test, it was Tim Paine who was the obvious choice as stand-in captain.
Paine has been looked upon as a potential future leader from as far back as 2010 – the year he made his Test debut against Pakistan. However, he has played just eight Tests since returning to the Test side after a seven-year break between caps so its natural that the decision to appoint him Australia’s 46th Test captain comes with a certain amount of scrutiny.
At 33, Paine’s career is closer to the conclusion than the beginning and while he’s enjoyed a renaissance with both bat and gloves since his return its impossible not to imagine that his appointment as captain has been finalised with a fair amount of haste and short-termism.
But with a Test match beginning in Johannesburg on Friday, the CA hierarchy were left with little choice but to appoint Paine to the role. With Smith and Warner unavailable the other viable options appear sparse.
Western Australia skipper and current Australian allrounder Mitchell Marsh looks the most likely candidate going forward. The 26-year-old led the Australian U19 side to World Cup success in 2010 but has limited other captaincy to fall back on having only recently been appointed as WA skipper last summer.
Marsh, like Paine and another possible option in Victorian captain Peter Handscomb, is still to fully establish himself in the current Australian side.
The debate will go on.
How did Darren Lehmann survive the fallout?
How is Lehmann still in a job? Is the question many cricket fans are currently asking. Reports surfaced on Tuesday that Lehmann was set to offer his resignation to the CA board after becoming one of the six members said to be involved in the fiasco.
However, after speaking to CA head of Integrity Iain Roy and CEO James Sutherland it has been determined that Lehmann had no prior knowledge of the ball-tampering ploy before it was carried out on the field by Cameron Bancroft.
Many have reasoned that it would’ve been impossible for Lehmann to have been in the dark over the incident, especially as he was seen apparently communicating with the 12th man Handscomb via a walkie talkie. Yet somehow, he and assistant coach David Sakar have come out of the internal investigations relatively unscathed.
It now looks likely that Lehmann will see out his existing contract which runs until after the 2019 World Cup and Ashes campaigns in England. His long-term successor remains the former Aussie opener and current WA coach Justin Langer who is expected to take over the role after the expiration of Lehmann’s current deal.
Lehmann has enjoyed plenty of success as coach – highlighted by a World Cup triumph on home soil and two victorious home Ashes campaigns but he’s also had his critics who suggest he’s fostered and overseen a bad culture in the Australian dressing room.
Can the team environment change significantly enough to win back the public?
The fallout from this week’s events across the cricketing, political and social media world has been unprecedented.
Some have called for life bans to be handed out to all involved with plotting the on-field cheating, while others have suggested the bans handed to Bancroft, Smith and Warner were ‘Punishments that didn’t fit the crime’.
One-year bans for Smith and Warner and nine months for Bancroft undoubtedly appear harsh but clearly CA felt the desperate need to make an example of the trio. Pressure from the government and lucrative sponsorship partners certainly didn’t help their cause when deciding the adequate justice and punishment for men representing their country on the world stage.
With the aforementioned trio now out of the picture it’ll be the responsibility of Lehmann, Paine and other senior members such as Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc to forge a new ‘cleaner’ culture in the dressing room.
CEO James Sutherland has already confirmed that CA are committed to setting up an independent review into “the conduct and culture” of the men’s teams which will be conducted by an expert panel and reported back to the CA board.
With this in mind the team must make a sustained effort to win back the wider public by ditching the ‘bad guy’ on field persona inherited under the leadership of Michael Clarke and continued during the Smith regime.
The over-the-top sledging must also be eradicated immediately if they’re to appear serious about changing the identity of the national side for the betterment of cricket in Australia.
What does the future look like?
The immediate future begins on Friday with a series still on the line. Although Australia find themselves 2-1 down with one Test to play they must begin to draw a-line-in-the-sand over the recent events and remember that they are in South Africa to play cricket.
Queensland pair Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns have been drafted into open the batting while either Glenn Maxwell or Handscomb will slot into Smith’s role at number four.
The immediate loss of the side’s best two batsmen is sure to leave a gaping hole. The team has struggled to build big totals without heavy contributions from either Smith or Warner and other senior batsmen such as Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh must now step out of the shadows and help fill the void.
Should Smith and Warner return to the side upon the completion of their twelve month bans then they will miss a ODI series in England in June, followed by a tour to Zimbabwe, a home series against Bangladesh, ODI’s against Pakistan in the UAE & South Africa at home, before home Test series against both India and Sri Lanka and then an ODI series in India and Tests in the UAE against Pakistan.
With World Cup and Ashes defences on the line later in 2019 it promises to be an important eighteen months in Australian cricket.