Toronto – Disgraced former Australia captain Steve Smith has dominated attention on the eve of the Global T20 Canada tournament.
Smith and former Australia vice-captain David Warner are both playing in the inaugural Canadian competition while they serve 12-month suspension from their national and provincial teams for their parts in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
The Cricket Australia sanctions allow the pair to play club cricket abroad, and that has added an extra dimension to the Global T20 tournament which starts on Thursday.
Toronto Nationals captain Darren Sammy and Vancouver Knights skipper Chris Gayle met the media at an airport hotel on the eve of their tournament opener at the Maple Leaf Cricket Club north of Toronto in King City.
Six of the 12 questions the West Indies stars faced – most from Australian reporters – were about Smith, who is playing for the Toronto Nationals.
Sammy, who previously had said any captain would want a batsman like Smith on his team, reiterated how impressed he was at Smith taking responsibility for his actions.
“You commit sins. There are punishments for your sins,” Sammy said. “It doesn’t mean everything is OK. But there’s always forgiveness after you commit your sins and you’ve paid the price. And you move on.”
Smith and Warner had their contracts in the lucrative Indian Premier League canceled for the season and the suspensions – far heftier than anything imposed by the International Cricket Council – is costing them millions of dollars in lost earnings and endorsements.
“They’ve been sacked and all that stuff,” Sammy said. “But at the end of the day life goes one … As sportsmen we want to do the right thing, set the example for the next generation. And we will make mistakes. But it doesn’t mean you’ve got to kick a man when he’s down. That’s not the human way to do things. I think there’s a right to punish but there’s also a right to forgive and move on.”
Sammy said he’d spoken to Smith, who is currently ranked the No 1 batsman in Tests, about his role on the team in the Canadian competition.
“As to what’s going (on) in his mind, I think it’s only Jesus could tell you what’s going in a man’s mind, but he looks ready,” said the West Indian all-rounder.
Sammy said he chose Smith for his team “because he knows how to win matches”.
Gayle said the two players had paid a penalty and should be allowed to get on with their lives.
“People make mistakes,” the explosive West Indies star said. “You have to give people a chance and everybody should try to move on from this situation.”