JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Australia cricket coach Darren Lehmann announced Thursday he would quit after the fourth and final test against South Africa, citing the emotional stress of the ball-tampering scandal.
Wiping away tears, he said he made the decision after watching coverage of Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft returning home, having confessed to cheating in the third test last weekend.
“I just want to let you know this will be my last test as Australian cricket coach as I’m stepping down,” Lehmann said on the eve of the final test in Johannesburg.
“After seeing events in the media today with Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft, the feeling is that Australian cricket needs to move forward and this is the right thing to do.
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“I really feel for Steve, as I saw him crying in front of the media, all the players are really hurting.”
Smith, the captain who was banned for 12 months for allowing the ball-tampering, broke down at a press conference as he apologized for his role in the scandal on his return to Australia.
Vice-captain David Warner was also banned for a year while opening batsman Bancroft was suspended for nine months.
Lehmann said the decision to quit was his, and that he was not fired by his bosses over the scandal that has plunged the team into a crisis.
“As I’ve stated before, I had no prior knowledge of the (ball-tampering) incident and do not condone the incident at all, but good people can make mistakes,” Lehmann said, initially reading from a prepared statement.
“My family and I have copped a lot of abuse over the last week and it’s taken its toll on them.”
Although repeating he wasn’t part of the ball-tampering plan, Lehmann said he was ultimately responsible for the “culture” of the team.
“I’ve been thinking about my position for a while,” he said. “As a team we know we’ve let so many people down and for that, we are truly sorry.”
Host South Africa leads the test series 2-1.