Australia must change their style of play and stop “butting heads” with opponents after the ball tampering scandal, says coach Darren Lehmann.
Captain Steve Smith and deputy David Warner have been banned for a year and Cameron Bancroft, who used sandpaper to scratch the ball, misses nine months.
Lehmann – who insisted he will not resign – said the trio are “not bad people” but “made a grave mistake”.
“Previously we butted heads but that’s not the way to go forward,” he said.
“The team has been seen quite negatively in recent times and there is a need for us to change some of the philosophies about the way we play.
“We do respect the opposition but we push the boundaries. So we’ve got to make sure of respecting the game, its traditions and understanding the way the game holds itself around the world.”
Lehmann was cleared of any wrongdoing by Cricket Australia’s investigation and will lead the team in the fourth Test against South Africa, which begins on Friday in Johannesburg.
However, he has apologised to “the Australian public and the cricket family” and acknowledged that he “needs to change” given that Australia’s aggressive style of play has been a key feature of his tenure.
Speaking at a news conference restricted to Australian media, Lehmann also said:
- He was “hurting” for Smith, Warner and Bancroft and that he worries about them “immensely”
- That he “hopes people will give them a second chance”
- He had “no prior knowledge” of the plan
- That Australia are “not 100% mentally right” to play in the fourth Test
Bancroft was caught tampering with the ball during the 322-run third Test defeat by South Africa, with Cricket Australia confirming he used sandpaper on it after being shown how by Warner.
An investigation found Smith and Bancroft had made “misleading public comments” on Saturday when they instead claimed yellow tape was used instead.
Lehmann insisted the first he saw of it was on television screens and that his response was to contact the 12th man via walkie-talkie.
“There were a couple of expletives in there,” he said. “Then I spoke to the players at tea time and said we would deal with it at the end of play, which happened.”
Australia’s training session was cancelled on Wednesday, with Lehmann saying that his players were “upset” and “hurt” by the events of the past few days and the departures of Smith, Warner and Bancroft.
“There is a human side of this,” he said. “These are young men and I hope people will give them a second chance. Their health and wellbeing is extremely important to us.
“I worry about the three guys immensely. We love all of our players and they are going through a really tough time.
“We understand the enormity of it and the public perception. We have to try and win the fans back over and play the best cricket we can.”
‘Australians caught in tornado of hysteria’
Former Australia bowler Shane Warne said the three players had been harshly treated amid a “tornado of hysteria”.
As well as their bans, Smith, 28, and Bancroft, 25, have also been suspended from captaining Australia for at least the next two years.
And Warner, 31, will not be considered for “any team leadership positions in the future”, Cricket Australia said.
Writing on Facebook, Warne pointed out that South Africa captain Faf du Plessis has been charged with ball tampering twice, and bowler Vernon Philander once.
“The list of players who have been charged with ball-tampering is long and contains some of the biggest names in the game,” Warne wrote.
“The jump to hysteria is something that has elevated the offence beyond what they actually did, and maybe we’re at a point where the punishment just might not fit the crime.
“My punishment would have been to miss the fourth Test match, a huge fine, and be sacked as captain and vice-captain. But they should still be allowed to play after that.”
What does the cricket world think?
Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “Steve Smith is a good guy who made a huge mistake. He needed punishing but I think this is too harsh. Bancroft was led astray and deserved punishing but again, too harshly, in my opinion. The other guy, I really don’t care about…”
Ex-Australia captain Michael Clarke: “Too many reputations on the line for the full story not to come out. Cape Town changing room is a very small place.”
West Indies bowler Tino Best: “I honestly believe everyone is overreacting. Look there isn’t a professional player who hasn’t done it, cricket is tough especially on flat wickets.”
South African batsman Hashim Amla: “What kind of cricket do you want to play? It has probably given the ICC a lot more headaches and the opportunity now is for the governing bodies to show us, where is this line?”
Former India captain Sachin Tendulkar: “Cricket has been known as a gentleman’s game. It’s a game that I believe should be played in the purest form. Whatever has happened is unfortunate but the right decision has been taken to uphold the integrity of the game. Winning is important but the way you win is more important.”
‘Lehmann would have stopped it’ – analysis
Cricket commentator and analyst Simon Hughes on BBC Radio 5 Live:
Warner seems to be pretty much the culprit. It seems reading the statement that he conceived the plans and persuaded Bancroft to implement them and Smith was a causal bystander but agreed to it. He should have taken a stance and said this is ridiculous.
If it’s true that Lehmann had no involvement they’ve really made a big mistake because if they had spoken to him about it he’d have said ‘it’s a no-no guys’ and ‘we’re not doing this’.
Even though he’s presided over an era of Australian cricket which is pretty abrasive and uncomfortable he knows right and wrong and would have said ‘it’s against the rules of the game, let’s forget it’.