Australia cricket captain resigns after charge of ball-tampering

Australia cricket captain Steve Smith quit after the country’s one-day international captain David Warner was charged with two counts of ball-tampering.

Smith, a 35-year-old opener, had previously been charged with a misconduct charge for instructing Warner to try to alter the condition of the ball. The Australian cricket board said it was moving to have the charge amended to a code of conduct breach, adding that Smith had stepped down as captain and as vice-captain.

Meanwhile, Warner, 31, was the one of three players to be charged with tampering the ball. The Sydney Morning Herald, which published the latest report on the ball-tampering incident last week, said Warner was charged for trying to tamper with the ball in March, a charge that could result in a suspension. The ball-tampering charges were made by the Cricket Australia watchdog and not the International Cricket Council.

The incident came at a particularly bad time for Australia, which is preparing to host next year’s World Cup, and is searching for a suitable successor to outgoing English captain Alastair Cook in the latter stages of his career. Australia has not been to the final of the World Cup since 1992.

Smith and Warner also face charges of dishonestly soliciting a benefit from the game. Other players were facing similar charges, but they could receive a lighter penalty if they committed “genuine errors of judgment,” Australia’s Cricket Anti-Corruption code states.

On Monday, ICC chief executive David Richardson said the ICC wanted the matter put out of Australia’s hands and referred it to the on-field disciplinary panel. A three-member panel of two former national captains and an ICC official will hear the charges for three weeks. The panel has been appointed by Cricket Australia and will deliver its verdict on Nov. 27.

The ICC also fined Warner A$11,250 ($8,800), while Smith was fined A$6,000 ($4,900). Cricket Australia imposed a “customary fine,” or undisclosed figure, upon Smith and Warner.

The other players involved have not been named.

“We are confident we can come up with a conclusion on the misconduct charges by Dec. 1 that can satisfy our desire to move on and focus on the upcoming World Cup and Ashes series,” Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland said.

The ICC said it had decided against referring the incident to its anti-corruption tribunal because the cheating occurred in Australia and not in a match in Pakistan or anywhere outside Australia.

The scandal has also rippled through national politics, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying that Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft should face charges that could lead to bans, and the state of Victoria’s premier saying players “need a long wake-up call.”

Smith, a former Australian Test and ODI captain, is a convicted criminal after pleading guilty to electoral fraud in 2012 when he was an Australia test player. He served 12 months’ probation and was fined $450. He was arrested and charged with assault for punching South African batsman Quinton de Kock during a South Africa-Australia test in 2016 but was cleared by the criminal justice system.

Umpires and match referee Richard Illingworth reported Warner and Bancroft for ball-tampering on Saturday. They were fined 50 percent of their match fees. The pair, who were docked 50 percent of their match fees, could still be banned by the ICC disciplinary commission.

The ball-tampering is still likely to cost Smith the captaincy of the ODI team. Asked whether Smith was still the one-day captain, the Cricket Australia CEO said on Monday that Smith was the vice-captain but the coach and selector Darren Lehmann would determine Smith’s position.

“We will make that decision over the next couple of days,” Sutherland said.

Australia’s ODI and Test captain Matthew Wade will take over in Smith’s absence until a replacement is found, Sutherland said.

Warner has become one of Australia’s most feared batsmen. He scored 213 runs in five games in the recent series against England, including a century in the second test that helped secure the two-match series win.

Warner also has a history of off-field troubles, including a sexual assault conviction for groping a hotel worker. Warner also threatened to retire from international cricket in the wake of that scandal, though he played on.

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