Former Test vice-captain David Warner said he realised he may never play for his country again as he tearfully apologised Saturday over a ball-tampering scandal which has had deep repercussions for Australian cricket.
As stand-in captain Tim Paine signalled a new approach with a pre-match handshake between the teams at the fourth Test in Johannesburg, Warner became the third disgraced Australian player to make an emotional appearance in front of media.
The usually pugnacious batsman, 31, repeatedly struggled to talk and tears ran down his face as he apologised to fans, team-mates, his family and the Australian public.
But he also evaded questions about whether the ball-tampering plot was his idea, whether it was the first time, who else was aware of it and whether he had been made a scapegoat.
Warner, 31, told a media conference in Sydney: “I can honestly say I have only wanted to bring glory to my country through playing cricket.
“In striving to do so I have made the decision which has had the opposite effect and it's one that I will regret for as long as I live.” Warner's appearance comes after similar heartfelt apologies from opening batsman Cameron Bancroft and captain Steve Smith, who broke down when he faced the media on Thursday.
Coach Darren Lehmann, convinced to step down after seeing the anguished statements from Bancroft and Smith, was also tearful as he announced his resignation.
Smith and Warner were banned from international and domestic cricket for a year and Bancroft was suspended for nine months after the incident during the third Test in Cape Town.
Bancroft was caught on camera trying to use yellow sandpaper to alter the ball, an offence which triggered an outpouring of criticism from home and abroad against the hard-nosed Australian team.
Warner, a dynamic batsman but a divisive figure in the game, has appeared isolated after he was charged by Cricket Australia with developing the plot and telling Bancroft to carry it out.
“I suppose there is a tiny ray of hope that I may one day be given the privilege of playing for my country again, but I am resigned to the fact that may never happen,” Warner said.
He also signalled a possible appeal when he said: “That's something that I will continue to sit down with my family and weigh up all my considerations before I make any decisions.” A report Saturday said Bancroft was set to lodge an appeal and had sought legal advice. The deadline for appeals is on Thursday.
With his wife, Candice, crying as she watched from the back of the room, Warner stonewalled requests for more details about the incident and his relationship with the team.
“I am here today to accept my responsibility for my part and my involvement for what happened in Cape Town,” Warner said, using a formulation he repeated several times.
“It's inexcusable, I am deeply sorry. I will do everything I can to earn back the respect of the Australian public.” Warner later took to social media to say: “I know there are unanswered questions and lots of them. I completely understand. In time I will do my best to answer them all. But there is a formal CA process to follow.”
Warner, who has played 74 Tests since his debut in 2011, has been described as the Australia's “attack dog”. He was also banned in 2013 after punching England's Joe Root in a bar.
“In the coming weeks and months I am going to look at what has happened and who I am as a man,” he said.
“To be honest, I am not sure right now how I will do this, I will seek out advice and expertise to make serious changes.” The fallout from the crisis has seen Warner dumped by sponsors ASICS and LG, while Cricket Australia has been dropped by its top sponsor, fund manager Magellan.
Along with Smith, Warner has also been ejected from this year's Indian Premier League, losing contracts worth nearly US$2 million each.
In Johannesburg, Paine took the unusual step of arranging a pre-match handshake between the teams as he led Australia out for the fourth and final Test of their ill-fated tour.
“Cricket's a gentleman's game. I spoke to our players about bringing it (the handshake) in,” said Paine, adding: “I think it's just a good show of sportsmanship and respect.” South Africa, who lead the series 2-1, were 313 for six at stumps on day one after batting first.