Steve Smith’s captaincy hangs in the balance after he was handed a one-Test ban and fined 100 per cent of his match fee for authorising premeditated cheating on day three of the third Test.
Smith has accepted the International Cricket Council charge and will miss the fourth Test against South Africa, while Cameron Bancroft has been docked 75 per cent of his match fee for ball tampering.
According to Smith, Lehmann and the rest of the coaching staff were not privy to the plan for Bancroft to use sticky tape in an illegal attempt to change the condition of the ball.
Lehmann is nonetheless a lightning rod for criticism among an Australian public increasingly fed-up with the team’s behaviour.
An often-jovial figure who has sought to lighten up the Australian dressing room, Lehmann has also been accused of allowing an aggressive team mentality to go largely unchecked.
During the 2013 Ashes – his first series in charge – Lehmann accused Stuart Broad of “blatant cheating” for refusing to walk when he edged a ball to the keeper during the first Test.
“From my point of view, I just hope the Australian public give it to him right from the word go for the whole summer and I hope he cries and he goes home,” Lehmann said ahead of the home Ashes series later that year.
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Australia’s 2014 tour of South Africa was marred by sledging which led Faf du Plessis to liken the visitors to a “pack of dogs”, while last year’s tour of India and the most recent Ashes series were also spiteful affairs.
David Warner was more recently sanctioned for an enraged off-field confrontation with Quinton de Kock, while Nathan Lyon copped a fine for his ‘ball drop’ send-off of AB de Villiers.
The incidents in Durban prompted a public rebuke from Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland, who admitted the Australian players had not acted within the spirit of the game.
Sutherland noted at the time that Australia had been far from the worst offenders under the ICC Code of Conduct during Smith’s captaincy.
That will count for little in light of the far more serious transgressions that have come to light in Cape Town.
Former Test captain Michael Clarke said the revelations would reflect poorly on Lehmann, who will finish up in the job after next year’s Ashes series, regardless of whether he knew about the plan.
“My fear is, if that’s the case (that he didn’t know), then the Australian head coach hasn’t got control of this Australian team,” Clarke said on the Nine Network.
“And if he does know about it, then he’s as accountable as anybody else.”
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