Michael Clarke lashes out amid Steve Smith's return to Test captaincy

Michael Clarke, pictured here alongside Steve Smith.
Michael Clarke has criticised Cricket Australia in the wake of Steve Smith's return to the Test captaincy. Image: Getty

Michael Clarke has accused Cricket Australia of continuing to make David Warner a 'scapegoat' from the ball-tampering scandal, criticising the fact that his leadership ban will never be overturned yet Steve Smith has returned to the Test captaincy. On Wednesday, Warner announced that he's abandoning his push to have his lifetime ban overturned due to the fact an independent panel wanted to hold a public hearing.

Cricket Australia recently changed its code of conduct to allow Warner to appeal his leadership ban. Warner and Smith - who were vice-captain and captain of the Test team at the time - were both suspended for 12 months after Cameron Bancroft was caught applying sandpaper to the ball during a match in South Africa in 2018.

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Smith was banned from holding a leadership position in Australian cricket for two years, while Warner was banned for life in that respect. Cricket Australia's recent change to the code of conduct meant Warner could appeal the lifetime ban when he previously couldn't.

But the 36-year-old has since dropped his attempts to overturn the ban out of fear an open hearing would amount to nothing more than a public lynching and put his family through more stress and pain that they don't need. Discussing the situation on Thursday, former Test captain Clarke was scathing of the way in which Warner continues to be treated.

Clarke said it was unfair that Warner is still banned from holding a leadership position, yet Smith can return to the Test captaincy. Smith is captaining Australia in the second Test against the West Indies due to Pat Cummins' calf injury.

"I don't know if it's fair to make David Warner the complete scapegoat and say 'right, everyone else can go back to normal'," Clarke said on Sky Sports Radio. "We'll forgive you but we won't forgive Davey. I'm still unsure if any of them should be involved in a leadership role.

"I think it's a tough one for Davey to swallow. Rules in place for him and not for the others."

Clarke said he still believes the punishments that Cricket Australia handed down after the ball-tampering scandal were unfair against Warner, who was not captain at the time. Bancroft was suspended for nine months for his role.

"I see it as very inconsistent," Clarke said. "I find it very hard to believe it's okay for one but not okay for the other to have a leadership role.

"If Cricket Australia decided that all the guys involved in South Africa, none would play a leadership role, that's a fair call. But if it's okay for Smithy, then it has to be okay for Bancroft and Warner. This is the last thing cricket needed."

Steve Smith, pictured here captaining Australia in the second Test in the absence of Pat Cummins.
Steve Smith is captaining Australia in the second Test in the absence of Pat Cummins. (Photo by Sarah Reed - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Michael Clarke wants explosive claims addressed

Speaking again on Friday morning, Clarke called on Cricket Australia to address new allegations from Warner's manager that players were given the green light to tamper with the ball some 16 months before the sandpaper scandal. Warner's manager James Erskine claimed on Thursday that two executives from CA told the players to tamper with the ball if that was the only way they could get it to reverse-swing.

“This thing is going nowhere. This thing is getting out of control. This thing is getting bigger," Clarke said.

“I’ll tell you what, there are some nervous men waking up this morning with these comments made yesterday by David Warner’s manager James Erskine. When I saw that [news] yesterday my jaw hit the floor.

“This is the thing that needs to be clear to Cricket Australia. You cannot sweep this under the carpet and say, ‘Well, we’ve got a new board, we’ve got a new CEO’. Listen, I don’t care if you’ve got to go back to James Sutherland, pick up the phone and call him or Pat Howard or anyone else who was involved with what James Erskine is saying because you’re not sweeping this.

Michael Clarke, pictured here during a game at the T20 World Cup.
Michael Clarke looks on during a game at the T20 World Cup. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

“You better find out what the heck has gone on. I want to know, as a past Australian captain, I want to know what is going on inside this set-up. I’m telling you now if James Erskine has that information, do you think that’s the only thing he’s got. This thing is not going away, the truth needs to be told.

“... Cricket Australia needs serious help right now. They need proper help. This is every man for themselves. It is horrible.”

Erskine claimed the incident occurred in the changing rooms after a Test against South Africa in which Australia were thrashed. "Two senior executives were in the changing room in Hobart and basically were berating the team for losing against South Africa," Erskine said on SEN. "Warner said we've got to reverse-swing the ball. And the only way we can reverse-swing the ball is by tampering with it. And so they were told to do it."

A former executive who is believed to have been in the room at the time has since contacted AAP to deny Erskine's allegations. Cricket Australia is yet to publicly comment.

with AAP

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