After being cleared of any wrongdoing by a Cricket Australia investigation into the ball-tampering scandal, head coach Darren Lehmann on Wednesday apologised to the fans and asserted that the team would need to improve their behaviour on and off the pitch in order to win back the respect.
“I would like to apologise to the Australian public and the cricket family. What happened on Saturday is not something that is acceptable from the Australian cricket team,” Lehmann was quoted as saying by the Australian media.
On Wednesday, CA slapped one-year bans each on former skipper Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner besides announcing a 9-month ban on rookie Test opener Cameron Bancroft for their involvement in tampering with the ball during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town.
Lehmann conceded that the trio has committed a blunder but said that they were “not bad people” and called for them to be given a second chance as he expressed concerns over their mental state.
“The players involved have been handed down various serious sanctions and they know they must face the consequences. They have made a very grave mistake, but they are not bad people,” he said.
“As a coach, you feel for them as people. They are hurting and I feel for them and their families.
“There is a human side of this. These are young men and I hope people will give them a second chance. Their health and well-being is extremely important to us.
“I worry about the three guys immensely. We love all of our players and they are going through a really tough time,” he added.
Dismissing media reports of him quitting from the post, Lehmann said: “I’m not going to resign. We need to change how we play. Previously we butted heads but that’s not the way to play going forward. I need to change.”
The former Australia all-rounder also cleared the air on TV footages which showed him immediately talking on the walky-talky to substitute player Peter Handscomb after Bancroft was caught tampering with the ball on the big screen.
“The first I saw of it was on that screen, I got straight on the walky-talky and said something. There were a couple of expletives in there. Then I spoke to the players at tea time and said we would deal with it at the end of play, which happened through the process,” he said.
“I am confident it is an isolated issue and a grave mistake. It’s never happened before in speaking to those guys,” he added.
Lehmann also backed Smith to resume his international career when he had served his 12-month suspension.
“He is going to come back a better person, there is no doubt about that. To see the hurt in him over the last three or four days, you just feel for him,” he said.
Following CA’s ban, both Smith and Warner were also banned by the Indian Premier League for the upcoming edition of the Twenty20 cash-rich franchise-based meet in India.