SYDNEY (Reuters) – Former Australia coach Darren Lehmann has joined calls for Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft to have their bans set aside and be allowed to return to state and international cricket.
Lehmann, who stood down in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal that led to the trio being suspended, made his comments after the release on Monday’s scathing review of the culture of the Australian game.
Smith and Warner are some seven months into one-year bans, while Bancroft will be eligible to return in December after his suspension for attempting to tamper with the ball during a test against South Africa in Cape Town in March.
“I think they should be back but it’s up to the board to make that decision, not me,” Lehmann told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I think the general feeling around Australia, certainly the people I talk to, is they want them playing again, at worst domestic cricket.
“Now the findings have come down they should be reviewing the sanctions on the three players.”
Among other findings, the review found that Cricket Australia was perceived to be “arrogant and controlling” and said to view the events in South Africa as “the failure of a handful of players” would be a mistake.
While Lehmann’s view of the mood of the Australian public might be reflective of the “bubble” the review said surrounded top players, test greats Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist and Doug Walters have also called for a reduction to the bans.
The players’ union has also called for the sanctions to be looked at again as, in their view, the ball-tampering in South Africa was in part the result of a “culture and system” which put too much pressure on the players to win.
“The findings of the … report affirm this. This is extremely significant, as there is now independent verification that the system and culture were contributing factors,” ACA chief Greg Dyer said in a statement.
“Basic fairness demands these independently verified contributing factors must now be taken into consideration and the penalties reduced.”
Test paceman Josh Hazlewood said on Monday the players would like to see former captain Smith, vice captain Warner and batsman Bancroft back on the field.
“We’d love to see the guys back playing as soon as possible. That’s not really our decision,” he told a news conference.
“The bans have been handed down and the boys have copped them, as you’d expect. That’s really out of our hands, as players.”
Cricket Australia chairman David Peever made it clear in his comments on the review on Monday that the board handed out the sanctions after “full and thoughtful process” and that they would remain in place.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Pritha Sarkar)