UPDATE: Steve Smith and David Warner have each been handed a 12-month ban, and Cameron Bancroft a nine-month ban, for their roles in the tampering controversy.
The tape / sandpaper debate has also been settled, and David Warner is haemorrhaging money.
Cricket fans wanted blood, and last night’s press conference by Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland didn’t quite deliver.
Yes, Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft have all been sent home hanging their heads in shame, but somehow Ozzie coach Darren Lehmann managed to cling to his job.
We will get to all that in a moment, but first let’s start with the reports that David Warner has “gone rogue”. It’s already been widely reported that there are serious tensions in the camp (we covered that here), but yesterday their chief slimeball upped the ante.
This via Sport24:
Australian opener David Warner has reportedly lost the plot as the Newlands ball-tampering saga gains momentum.
Warner had spent Sunday night drinking champagne at the team hotel bar in Cape Town and that he had fallen out with his team-mates, some of whom reportedly asked for him to be removed from the hotel.
The article adds that Warner removed himself from a team WhatsApp group, and quoted one source as saying that Warner had “gone rogue” since the ball-tampering story broke.
Out of all the drama that has unfolded, that above is by far my favourite.
Look who was spotted sitting alone at the team hotel – it’s David ‘No Friends’ Warner:
When the team travelled from Cape Town to Jozi, where the fourth test will start on Friday, the media were waiting. Here are the pretty awkward scenes from Cape Town International:
Not running your mouths now, are you?
OK, let’s focus on how the hell coach Lehmann managed to cling to his job. The line trotted out by Cricket Australia is that he didn’t know about, and wasn’t involved in, the decision to ball-tamper.
We’ll start with Cricinfo, and their take on how the man who has led the team to this point has wriggled off the hook:
No-one over the past five years has been more closely associated with that culture than Lehmann, who personified the sunny public face but ruthless approach to opponents that had them referred to as a “pack of dogs” by Faf du Plessis in 2014 – Terriers then, they have been Rottweilers in 2018…
All the players involved and sent home have been closely mentored by Lehmann over some or all of the past five years, from the moment he bluntly and simply told Warner, in front of the rest of the team, words to the effect of “screw up once more and you’re gone” on the same day he became coach in England in 2013…
This time around, the man most associated with maintaining [the team’s] increasingly dated brutality has somehow managed to sidestep accountability, at least for now.
Lehmann didn’t know? Nope – Twitter wasn’t having it:
And one of the chirps of the day:
People can say Lehmann didn’t know ’til the cows come home, but for me it doesn’t matter.
Once he takes that walkie-talkie, radios down to 12th man Peter Handscomb and gets him to run onto the field to tell Bancroft to stick the evidence down his pants, he is complicit.
From that moment on, he is as wrapped up in the aftermath of being caught out as the players themselves.
For a team, and a country, that’s talking about fronting up to their cheating, Sutherland went to great lengths to avoid actually using the word.
Seriously – look at the video of him dodging the question like Zuma dodging corruption questions in Parliament:
Here’s the CEO of #Australiancricket when asked whether the players cheated? It happens not once, not twice, but three times. And he cannot call it cheating. Maybe I’m politically naive, but how deep into the grey are they, exactly, that they can’t even name it? pic.twitter.com/QDpHcjSXCv
— Ross Tucker (@Scienceofsport) March 27, 2018
And again, when asked a third time if it’s cheating:
Here’s the 3rd time. Gets the thousand yard death stare. Perhaps, as some have noted, he’s wary of legal implications & possible prejudice. I can see that, but then it’s part of the source. I don’t think tap dancing, for any reason, helps repudiate a culture that enables cheating pic.twitter.com/S2WBglNyq0
— Ross Tucker (@Scienceofsport) March 27, 2018
Say it after me, James – we cheated.
So why are Cricket Australia so reluctant to get rid of Lehmann, given that the decision to retain his services has been met with outrage and disgust back home?
Maybe you have your own theories, but this one from Reddit (yes, a place where conspiracies abound) actually holds water.
Let’s take a look:
CA need Lehmann’s co-operation to support the “Only 3 players, first and only time” cover-story alive, at least on paper. If they fire Lehmann, he is done in cricket. Forever. He has zero incentive to stay quiet. And could blow the cover story to smithereens. That could end up costing CA big time – risking player assets of the calibre of Mitchel Starc, Hazelwood, maybe even more of the “leadership group”. Drag Aus cricket through a longer and bigger shitstorm that will hurt their brand value massively.
By keeping him on as coach, they can have him sign an NDA. Its an obvious quid pro quo – They allow him to keep this BS fig leaf of innocence, giving it the official stamp, and buy his silence and co-operation in return.
I’d much rather believe that Lehmann has dirty pictures of Sutherland or something. “Lehmann has dirt on CA” – That’s the first thought that came to mind when I first heard Sutherland exonerate Lehmann.
But more I think about it, its what makes sense.
CA is a bureaucratic organization [sic]. Behavior of such organizations is inherently predictable. They are in asset protection mode now. They will have to do what it takes to preserve their assets.
Apart from buying his silence, there is simply nothing to gain for CA by refusing to fire Lehmann. It only incurs more bad PR for them at a bad time. There is only one reason why they would risk that at the moment. His silence.
And to a certain degree, its understandable. Its all well and good to make public statements and big noises about cleaning up the culture. But imagine the shitshow if they can Lehmann and he spills the beans. They’d have to ban a few of their bowlers for meaningful durations. Why should the Aus cricket board go to all that extent, when the historical record shows that other boards such as South Africa, Pakistan, ECB etc have hardly done much to protect the “spirit of the game” when it comes to their players caught messing with the ball?
CA’s primary duty is towards Australian Cricket. Not to protecting “truth, justice and the so-called hard but fair Australian way”. They have fiduciary responsibilities to justify their actions. Cricket boards may pay a ton of lip service to “serving the sport”, “serving the fans” etc etc. But their primary job is to protect the sport and its money making potential. Rest is all PR management.
We know that Cricket Australia stands to lose massive, massive sponsorship deals if this continues to spiral out of control (some of those numbers at the bottom of this story), and they are currently in damage control mode.
Kicking Lehmann to the curb, and knowing that he is a combative character with a history of speaking his mind, could lead to him spilling the beans in a way that does irreparable damage to the sport’s national governing body.
Later this evening, or perhaps at some point later in the week, we will find out just how extensive the bans for Smith, Warner and Bancroft are.
I would guess Steve Smith might be hit with 12 months, Bancroft with six, and we will never see Warner play test cricket again, but by hanging onto Lehmann Cricket Australia have nailed their colours to the mast.
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