Stand-in Australian skipper Steve Smith says it’s “fundamentally wrong” that teammate David Warner’s lifetime leadership ban remains.
Smith, Warner and West Aussie Cam Bancroft were all punished to varying degrees for their role in the infamous Cape Town ball tampering saga in 2018.
But unlike Warner, Smith – who was Australian Test captain at the time – has been able to return to the top job, as he filled in for injured skipper Pat Cummins in Adelaide in this week’s Second Test.
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Speaking after his side’s massive 419-run win over the West Indies on Sunday, Smith said Warner had “served his time”.
“I think from my point of view, banning someone for life from leadership is just fundamentally wrong,” he said.
“David’s served his time like I did.
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“For us, we know he’s a leader around the group. On and off the field, he’s doing a tremendous job.”
Warner brought the sandpaper scandal back into the headlines this week when he, and then his manager, dropped bombshell claims on the eve of the Second Test.
Warner had been prepared to fight his lifetime leadership ban but abruptly abandoned his quest when he decided the panel would turn it into a “public lynching” and “media circus”.
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“I am not prepared for my family to be the washing machine for cricket’s dirty laundry,” he said in his statement.
Warner’s manager James Erskine then made bombshell allegations that players “were told” to tamper with the ball – claims Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley later labelled “unfounded” and “unhelpful”.
Smith admitted it had been a “difficult” week for Warner, but reiterated that the opener had the team’s backing.
“David’s said himself he’s done and dusted; he wants to move on,” Smith said.
“He’s got our full support, hopefully he can have a really big series for us (against South Africa starting next week).
“I’d say it’s probably been more a distraction for Davey no doubt going through (the week’s headlines).
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“He’s got the full support of everyone in the group. He’s been amazing for a while now. He’s a leader like I said on and off the field.
“I don’t really know the ins and outs of all the codes (for Warner’s application) so it’s difficult for me to judge but I think it’s wrong to give someone a lifetime ban – that’s not right.”
Warner endured a tough Frank Worrell Trophy series, despite Australia’s remarkable dominance, and finished with an average of just 25 in his four innings.
He was the only Australian player to bat in both Tests without raising his bat at least once.
But Smith said Warner’s form woes weren’t a concern heading into the series against South Africa.
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“I think for me, it’s in his body language, the way he goes out. He’s really positive and just in a good frame of mind – I watched him in the nets … He was really sharp and he was batting well,” he said.
“Davey’s a once in a generational player. He’s arguably the best ever opener for Australia – the way he’s able to put pressure on the bowlers from the outset helps everyone down the order as well.
“There’s no reason why he can’t have a big series for us this week coming up.
“Fingers crossed he can have a bit of luck.”