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Distraught Smith breaks down as he accepts blame

Sydney, Thursday @Peoplesports11

Distraught former Australian cricket captain Steve Smith accepted full responsibility Thursday for a ball-tampering scandal that has shaken the sport, breaking down in tears while denying it had ever happened before.

Cricket Australia have banned Smith and David Warner from all international and domestic cricket for a year while opening batsman Cameron Bancroft was exiled for nine months over attempted cheating during the third Test in South Africa Smith, a golden boy compared to Donald Bradman for his batting exploits, was a broken man at an emotional press conference on his arrival back in Sydney from Johannesburg.

“I take full responsibility, I made a serious error of judgement and I understand the consequences. It was a failure of leadership,” he said, choking back tears as he was comforted by his father Peter.

“I know I will regret this for the rest of my life. I am absolutely gutted. Cricket is my life and hope it can be again. I’m sorry. I’m absolutely devastated,” he added. Smith’s fall from grace has been dramatic, and fast.

He was jeered as he made his way through Johannesburg airport on Wednesday surrounded by police and media with concerns over his mental state in the current rabid climate and coach Darren Lehmann calling for all three men to be “given a second chance”.

Former great Shane Warne, no stranger himself to controversy, offered the trio an olive branch despite days of a harsh and judgemental Australian public baying for blood. “What the public wants to see is change. They want to see you be a better person.

They’ll support you if they see that, and they’ll forgive you,” he wrote in a column for the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Warner, a divisive figure who was charged with developing the plot and instructing Bancroft to carry it out, also broke his silence to say sorry and admit his actions had been “a stain on the game”.

“Mistakes have been made which have damaged cricket. I apologise for my part and take responsibility for it,” he told his 1.6 million Instagram followers as he made his way back to Sydney.“It’s a stain on the game we all love and I have loved since I was a boy,” he added.

In handing out their tough punishment, cricket chiefs bowed to uproar at home where sportsmen and women are held in high esteem and expected to act in the best interests of the game. Authorities also needed to act decisively to counter mounting concern from sponsors over reputational damage. -AFP

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