Former Australian cricket captain Steve Smith grimaces as he speaks to the media in Sydney, Thursday, March 29, 2018, after being sent home from South Africa following a ball tampering scandal. Smith and vice-captain David Warner were banned for 12 months while young batsman Cameron Bancroft received 9 months after an investigation into the Australian cricket team's cheating scandal identified Wa
Former Australian cricket captain Steve Smith grimaces as he speaks to the media in Sydney, Thursday, March 29, 2018, after being sent home from South Africa following a ball tampering scandal. Smith and vice-captain David Warner were banned for 12 months while young batsman Cameron Bancroft received 9 months after an investigation into the Australian cricket team's cheating scandal identified Wa

Focus on Warner after Smith, Bancroft accept bans

ALL eyes are now on David Warner's next move, after Steve Smith last night ignored the advice of his players' union and copped his 12-month ban on the chin.

Cameron Bancroft followed suit soon after to also accept the sanctions, but Warner is still to announce his decision ahead of Thursday's artificial 5pm deadline.

Smith's strong-willed decision to take the lead and refuse to challenge Cricket Australia's heavy ban has put him on the road to redemption.

Immediate conclusions that Smith would never captain his country again have been significantly tempered by the leadership the 28-year-old has shown in his most trying hour.

Warner's predicament in the matter is in many ways different to Smith given he has been pinpointed by Cricket Australia as the mastermind of the sandpaper scandal.

The deposed vice-captain could potentially add more context to his role in the incident as well as prove mitigating circumstances by having his day in court, but there was a feeling last night that Warner may also be tempted to pass up the chance for a hearing and take his medicine.

There was always an element of cat and mouse to the decision that awaited Smith, Bancroft and Warner - and by taking the plunge first Smith may have had a strong influence over his two teammates.

Warner may make his decision by the 5pm deadline (Thursday), although technically he has until next week to notify Cricket Australia about whether he wants to challenge the severity of his sanctions in a hearing.

The focus is now on former vice-captain David Warner. Picture: AAP
The focus is now on former vice-captain David Warner. Picture: AAP

Smith ultimately decided that taking full responsibility as captain, which he did at an emotional press conference last week, meant also backing up his actions with words.

To accept the crushing ban handed down showed immense maturity and ensured Smith is not done with as a leader - because his word means something.

"I would give anything to have this behind me and be back representing my country," said Smith in a statement.

"But I meant what I said about taking full responsibility as Captain of the team. I won't be challenging the sanctions. They've been imposed by CA to send a strong message and I have accepted them."

Three hours later, Cameron Bancroft also took to Twitter to announce he was following the approach taken by Smith.

"Today I lodged the paperwork with Cricket Australia and will be accepting the sanction handed down," said Bancroft.

Former Australian cricket captain Steve Smith has decided against going to a hearing and has accepted the 12 month ban handed down to him by Cricket Australia.
Former Australian cricket captain Steve Smith has decided against going to a hearing and has accepted the 12 month ban handed down to him by Cricket Australia.

"I would love to put this behind me and will do whatever it takes to earn back the trust of the Australian public. Thank you to all those who have sent messages of support."

Accepting their respective 12 and nine-month bans means Smith and Bancroft cannot explore any avenue to try and play domestic State cricket this summer. They will be confined to grade cricket.

Smith has been black-listed from captaincy for 24 months, but he has grown more as a leader in the past week than he did in the years he had in the role since taking over from Michael Clarke.

To make the decision he has, Smith has had to listen to his own heart.

His players' association were in his ear to appeal, arguing that the sanctions were too harsh. Lawyers would have also argued he had a strong case for a significant downgrade to his punishment.

 

But Smith understood the gravity of why the penalties were handed out, and grasped the fact they were about far more than ball tampering, but about bringing the game into disrepute.

With his successor Tim Paine 33 years of age, and with public support firmly behind him again, there would appear no reason why Smith can't one day convince the Australian hierarchy that he's fit again to lead the country.

That's how strong his performance has been in recent days.

Warner is yet to rule out any option, including retirement, however, it's understood he too wants to play for his country again.

Whether that task would be made easier or harder by going to a hearing is what might be most weighing on his mind.

Cricket Australia might be terrified at some of the skeletons Warner could bring out of the closet, but going down that path may also end his international ambitions.

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