Michael Clarke open to coming out of retirement to captain Australia again in wake of ball-tampering scandal

Clarke, Steve Smith's predecessor as skipper, revealed he would be open to returning to the side

Sunday 25 March 2018 12:37
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Cricketer Cameron Bancroft seen with object while handling the ball

Michael Clarke is ready to step into the breach and captain Australia again in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal engulfing the game Down Under.

Skipper Steve Smith has been forced stand down as captain after admitting to cheating during the third Test with South Africa with Cameron Bancroft, the batsman at the heart of the incident which was caught on TV cameras, now charged by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Cricket Australia have confirmed that Smith and vice-captain David Warner will not play in the remainder of the Test in Cape with Tim Paine set to take over.

And Clarke, Smith's predecessor as captain, revealed he would be open to returning to the side if asked to do so.

"If I was asked by the right people, then I would think about my answer," he said. "It's a terrible day for Australian cricket. I can't believe the leadership group have got a young kid (Bancroft) playing in his eighth Test match to do this."

Former Test vice-captain Adam Gilchrist added that he was "stunned and shocked... embarrassed and sad".

"Australian cricket is the laughing stock of the sporting world," he added. "I remember being a current player and the last thing you wanted was ex-players putting the boot in, but I have the feeling we have been all really badly let down here. It's not bending the spirit of the game, it's going outside the laws."

Cameron Bancroft appeared to produce an object from his trouser pocket while working on the ball

Australian great Shane Warne made no defence of the team's actions but disagreed with the logic of Smith and Warner's mid-match removal.

"There's nothing you can say to defend what Steve Smith did yesterday," he said while commentating on the Test in South Africa. "Everyone is trying to do what they think the right thing is after Australia made a horrific decision yesterday...but I don't think it's the right thing to stand down during the match.

"Work out the proper consequences and if it means dismissing Steve Smith and Warner, getting them out of the team or sacked as captain and vice-captain, fine. But I don't think it's the right thing to stand them down during a Test."

Bancroft was seen holding the ball when television cameras caught him producing a flat bit of material – that he later confirmed was a strip of sticky tape – from his pocket, with slow-motion replays being shown both on TV coverage and on the big screen at Newlands, and Bancroft then put the tape into the front of his trousers in an attempt to hide it.

Smith has now been stood down as captain for the remainder of the third Test

He said that it was his intention to use granules of dirt from the pitch on the sticky tape to try and roughen the dirty side of the ball, which would aid Australia’s seam bowlers in being able to reverse-swing it.

Umpires Richard Illingworth and Nigel Llong spoke to Bancroft at the time of the incident, and he produced what looked to be a sunglasses case from his pocket – though the black fabric did not look like the piece of material that he had put into his trousers seconds before.

While the two English umpires appeared satisfied with Bancroft’s explanation, the ICC has since launched a full investigation.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has since called the incident "completely beyond belief'' and "a shocking disappointment'' while the Australian Sports Commission, the lead Government agency responsible for Australian sport, has called for Smith to be removed as captain immediately.

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