Smith’s captaincy push whacked by new furore

Steve Smith’s push to captain Australia has been set back by the resurgence of the ball-tampering scandal, former Test skipper Mark Taylor says.

Taylor, one of Smith’s staunchest supporters, also backed Australia’s bowlers from the Cape Town Test in insisting that they were an unwitting part of ‘Sandpapergate’.

Smith lost his Australian captaincy and copped a 12-month playing ban over the ball-tampering plot; which he failed to stop, as opposed to initiating. Taylor believes that he can return as captain but the reopening of old wounds was unhelpful.

“It doesn’t help. No doubt about it, it doesn’t help his case, because he like I’m sure most people involved in the game would like this just to go away; which it won’t go away,” Taylor said on Sports Sunday.

“There’s no doubt there’s a growing momentum around Steve Smith being a potential captain, no doubt about that.”

Taylor gave an impassioned defence of Australia’s bowlers – Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon – after they vehemently denied knowledge of the ball-tampering scheme. Cummins himself is a potential future Australian captain.

“The bleeding obvious to me is they didn’t know that it had been doctored. You only have to read what they said during the week,” Taylor said.

“If I could just read it out: ‘We did not know a foreign substance was taken on to the field to alter the condition of the ball’. And as they said, the two umpires in the game did not change the ball.

“So there was an attempt to change the condition of the ball but they didn’t get to do it. The umpire said, ‘That ball’s still fine, let’s get on with it’. So they did not know.”

Taylor said that he believed the bowlers – “who I think have high integrity” – would have admitted knowledge or involvement in ball-tampering in 2018, had they been involved.

Taylor also defended the investigation process undertaken by Cricket Australia, given the circumstances. The probe was branded a “joke” by Warner’s agent, James Erskine, last week.

“The question about whether Cricket Australia did enough three years ago, the answer to that is yes,” Taylor said.

“I think we had a four-day window between the end of the Cape Town Test and the start of the fourth Test which was at Johannesburg, to send someone over, do an investigation, make a report and then make some decisions around that. That was obviously to send the three players home and to deal with it then.

“Yes, in an absolute ideal situation, of course not; it would have been great to have six months to do all this. But we had a four-day window and I think in that time, we got it right.”

Taylor said he did not believe that the public release of the investigation report, so far blocked by Cricket Australia, would help to end debate over the matter.

“It’s going to be part of the cricket folk history, part of the history you don’t want cricket to be known for, it will be there forever,” Taylor said.

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