(Photo: Getty Images)
By Adam Ellis
Australia captain Steve Smith was torn with emotion as he broke down multiple times addressing the media at Sydney Airport.
Smith has been suspended by Cricket Australia for 12 months and sent home from the tour of South Africa for his involvement in the ball-tampering row which marred the third Test.
Upon landing back on home soil, Smith told the media he will take responsibility for the actions of team-mates David Warner and Cameron Bancroft for their part in applying sandpaper to the ball.
“I don’t blame anyone,” said 28-year-old Smith. “I’m the captain of the Australian team. It’s on my watch and I take responsibility for what happened last Saturday.
“If any good can come of this, if there can be a lesson to others then I hope I can be a force for change. I know I’ll regret this for the rest of my life. I’m absolutely gutted. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness.
“Cricket is the greatest sport in the world. It’s been my life and I hope it can be again. I’m sorry and I’m absolutely devastated.
“It hurts… I’m deeply sorry. I love the game of cricket. I love entertaining young kids. I just want to say sorry for the pain I’ve brought to Australia, to the fans and the public.”
As well as the 12-month suspension, Smith will not be considered for a leadership role for the next two years by Cricket Australia, as the financial fallout for the national governing body continues.
The main sponsors of the 2017-18 Ashes series, Magellan Financial, has withdrawn from its three-year deal worth AUS$20million.
Magellan Group chief executive Hamish Douglass said: “A conspiracy by the leadership of the Australian men’s Test cricket team which broke the rules with a clear intention to gain an unfair advantage during the third Test in South Africa goes to the heart of integrity.
“Regrettably, these recent events are so inconsistent with our values that we are left with no option but to terminate our ongoing partnership with Cricket Australia.