(Photo: Getty Images)
By Adam Ellis
As Cricket Australia executives fly to Johannesburg to investigate the ball-tampering scandal that has smeared the nation’s image, team morale among Australia’s players is just as mirky.
According to reports, the future of deposed vice-captain David Warner is in serious question after the opening batsman removed himself from the squad’s Whatsapp group chat in the aftermath of the Cape Town Test.
The third Test of the four-match series witnessed Australia batsman Cameron Bancroft use sticky yellow tape dipped in dirt to rough up one side of the ball, with the whole incident caught on camera and noticed by the on-field umpires.
After the ICC meted out punishments to Bancroft – 75 per cent of his match fee and three demerit points – and Australia captain Steve Smith – 100 per cent of his match fee and one-match ban – debate surrounding the ‘leadership group’ has opened a divide between Warner and Australia’s bowlers.
It has been reported the leadership group consists of Smith, Warner, fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, and spinner Nathan Lyon. The last three mentioned are enraged at being dragged into the controversy and sources have told the Sydney Morning Herald they do not intend to step onto a cricket field with Warner again.
This follows sources close to Warner saying the whole team was aware of the plan to alter the condition of the ball.
The actions of Smith and Bancroft have drawn condemnation from cricket legends and Australian politicians, and the national governing body is expected to agree on the punishments for those involved late on Tuesday.
Cricket Australia’s head of integrity, Iain Roy, has interviewed the team to garner their version of events prior to the flight to Johannesburg, with chief executive James Sutherland currently in transit to South Africa.
Sutherland cut a dejected figure in a press-conference in Sydney on Sunday two days on from ordering TV companies to come back to the drawing board with improved offers for rights to broadcast Australian cricket.
The Test overshadowed the achievements of Morne Morkel and Nathan Lyon, who both reached 300 Test wickets at Newlands.