Australia digests shame

SYDNEY/CAPE TOWN – A ban for captain Steve Smith in no way eased the fury directed at the leadership of the Australia cricket team as the sports-mad nation returned to work yesterday still digesting the ball-tampering scandal which broke in Cape Town over the weekend.

The story led the front pages of all of the country’s major newspapers, the headlines mostly working around the single word “Shame”, and on radio talk shows and social media the offenders were lambasted with a vehemence unusual for even those forums.

“As this disreputable tour descended from the gutter into the sewer, the mythical line the Australians use as the yardstick for their behaviour has not only become blurred but disappeared altogether,” Andrew Wu wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.

There is no hyperbole involved when Australians describe the cricket captaincy as the country’s second most important job behind that of prime minister and the concept of playing “hard, but fair” has always been integral to the national identity.

For Smith, therefore, to have deliberately conspired to cheat by getting a junior member of his team to tamper with the ball during the third test against South Africa cuts to the very quick of the Australian psyche.

The players remained in their Cape Town hotel on Monday in preparation for the transfer to Johannesburg for Friday’s fourth and final Test, though for many their minds must surely be already at home.

There were few smiles as they chatted quietly among themselves, some enjoying family time by the pool on what would have been the fifth day of the third test had South Africa not ripped through their batting on Sunday to inflict a crushing 322-run defeat and take a 2-1 lead in the series.

Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were nowhere to be seen though, as Cricket Australia’s head of integrity Iain Roy arrived in South Africa to begin an investigation that will decide the international future of all three.

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