Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland has announced Steve Smith, David Warner, and Cameron Bancroft will be sent home following ball-tampering investigations in Cape Town.
Sutherland made a major point of adding coach Darren Lehmann was not in any way associated with the incident – and thus will keep his post – nor was any other player.
While apologising to fans, sponsors, and the game, the CEO didn’t flag what punishment will be handed out to the trio, as there’s more due diligence to be undertaken once they arrive home, but he did say that substantial penalties are likely.
More on ball-tampering sanctions
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» Matt Renshaw must replace Cameron Bancroft permanently
For Smith and Warner – two of the highest paid Australian cricketers, each making around $5 million mark per year – the severity of punishment could well cost them both millions of dollars.
WeetBix has already reportedly taken Smith’s image off the packet, and that’s just the start. Lucrative IPL contracts are also under scrutiny as the tampering fiasco gains momentum.
Depending on the length of their suspensions, questions will be asked if either will ever wear the baggy green again.
Bancroft is in a slightly different position, with not nearly as much to lose financially, but like Smith and Warner, his integrity is shot to bits.
We may know more from Sutherland in the next 24 hours, but the big news this morning is Darren Lehmann is in the clear, so too the rest of the leadership group in Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and Nathan Lyon.
Keeper Tim Paine is now officially the new captain, and will lead the side out in Johannesburg.
Attention turns to the three new replacements for the fourth and final Test – Matt Renshaw, who is 22 today, Joe Burns, and Glenn Maxwell.
No doubt Usman Khawaja will open the batting with Renshaw, Burns will be three, Shaun Marsh four, Mitchell Marsh five, and Maxwell six.
Both Renshaw and Burns played major roles in Queensland capturing their eighth Sheffield Shield, their first in six years, with a nine-wicket win over Tasmania.
Renshaw has cracked three Shield centuries since Christmas to score 804 runs for the season at 44.56.
Burns made 725 at 55.76 in the Shield season with two tons, while Maxwell now has the chance he’s always craved for an extended stint wearing the baggy green.
It will be hard for the Australians to lift for this Test after all the drama. But now we’ll see how big the team’s ticker is.