Smith’s true delusion exposed
STEVE Smith has admitted he made a mistake in giving the OK to tamper with the ball in Cape Town, but that's not where his errors in judgment ended.
Former Australian paceman Stuart Clark said the captain and Cameron Bancroft completely misjudged the seriousness of their crime when fronting the media to explain their actions, after television cameras caught Bancroft cheating on day three of the third Test.
The pair revealed what happened behind the scenes and on the field after Bancroft was spotted altering the condition of the ball with tape, but according to Clark, they never would have expected the backlash to be as severe.
The ex-fast bowler said they would probably have expected a slap on the wrist, because multiple former and current players have generally only received relatively minor punishments for ball tampering. That's where they were wrong.
"Unfortunately ball tampering is something that's been involved in cricket for a long period of time," Clark said on radio program Big Sports Breakfast.
"The problem is the flow-on and the outrage and hysteria around this incident, now around Australia is affecting brands.
"What I'm sure the two boys thought was just a misdemeanour when they had the press conference which they did a couple of days ago is far bigger than what they ever imagined."
Clark agreed with the show's co-host Laurie Daley that Smith didn't appreciate the enormity of the situation when he spoke to the media, because players who found guilty of ball tampering in the past had rarely been put under the same scrutiny that enveloped the Aussies in South Africa.
"I'm pretty sure that's the case (that Smith underestimated how serious the crime was), because that's what's happened in the past," Clark said.
"When you see the likes of Rahul Dravid getting done (for ball tampering), Shahid Afridi, Faf du Plessis ... and in Shield cricket there's been a few over the years where you get in trouble, then you get a match ban and lose your match fee or whatever it may be.
"I'm sure Steve Smith thought that's exactly what would happen.
"Unfortunately that's not what's happened and the public have reacted in a far greater manner than that and they've got to deal with the consequences.
"The two boys, when they did the press conference, they thought this would just be a slap on the wrist as every other one has been."
According to the Australian Associated Press, there is a sense among many players and support staff that Smith failed to eloquently express exactly what transpired in the conversation between himself, Warner and Bancroft inside the dressing room at lunch.
Fairfax Media is reporting David Warner was the chief instigator in the decision to tamper with the ball and Smith went along with the idea.
While Smith confessed to making a "big mistake" in his press conference, he was bullish about remaining at the helm of the national side.
"I won't be considering stepping down. I still think I'm the right person for the job," he told reporters, before assuring the public something similar would never happen again under his leadership.
He might not get the chance to make good on that promise, with his hold on the captaincy in serious jeopardy as the significance of what the 28-year-old condoned becomes abundantly clear to him and the entire cricket community.
Smith misjudging just how big an impact his admission of guilt in the scandal would cause has sparked debate about how detached Australia's cricketers have become from reality in the pursuit of success.
The team's culture has come under fire along with its win-at-all costs attitude. That Smith may not have considered Bancroft altering the condition of the ball to be a serious offence shows how blurred the team's thinking has become in regards to what is and isn't acceptable on the cricket field.
Before this fresh storm the Aussie team was already facing accusations about its conduct in the midst of a series that has been marred by ugly sledging and personal attacks.
Few are prepared to show any sympathy for a team accused of hypocrisy in doing whatever it takes to win but crying foul when something goes against it.
Former Australian opening batsman Ed Cowan said the scandal pointed to bigger cultural issues within the Aussie set-up.
"This is a cultural issue," Cowan said on Fox Sports program Bill and Boz. "We've talked about sledging, we've talked about brawling, we've talked about boofish behaviour.
"This is just another data point in a whole set of behaviours that is not befitting of any high quality, high performance national team we want to be supporting.
"That's the point that needs to be made and that culture comes from the people at the top. That comes from the coach. That is setting the agenda, the vision, what kind of team do we want to be?"