The real mastermind: claims Warner led tampering disgrace
THE ball-tampering spotlight has turned to David Warner, with the team's vice-captain reportedly fingered as the ringleader behind the scandal which has rocked Australian sport.
While skipper Steve Smith has taken responsibility for the ball-tampering affair and worn the brunt of world cricket's criticism, Warner has stayed largely in the shadows despite being strongly rumoured to have played a major role in concocting the plan.
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Smith said he and the team's "leadership group" came up with the strategy to tamper with the ball during lunch on day three of the third Test - an admission which earned him a one-Test ban from the ICC, ruling him out of the fourth Test at the Wanderers which begins on Friday.
Warner is set to join him in sitting out the fourth Test, as Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland arriving in South Africa to conclude an investigation - conducted by Head of Integrity Iain Roy and high performance manager Pat Howard - into the team's actions in the third Test.
And Fairfax Media reported on Tuesday that Warner has emerged "as the central character" in the sorry saga.
"Fairfax Media has been told that Smith and Warner in particular can expect to be sidelined for 'a stretch of time'," the report read.
Smith, Warner and Bancroft are the central figures in the scandal and have all been interviewed by Roy - while the reported states head coach Darren Lehmann, who Smith claimed had no knowledge of the plans, and his coaching staff will also come under the microscope this week.
But it is Warner who could soon be facing the music.
Fairfax reports those close to the combative Australian opener is denying he is the instigator, but there is a growing belief that is not the case.
"Those in the hierarchy at CA have been made aware of suggestions that the vice-captain was the chief conspirator and that Smith foolishly agreed," the report read.
"Sources close to Warner, however, deny that he was the instigator.
"Others close to the Australian dressing room are adamant that the blame should not rest with one or two individuals and that the whole team and set-up around it should take the fall.
"Warner has been the team's primary ball manager on the ground in recent times but Bancroft, playing in only his eighth Test, took on those duties at Newlands."
During the second Test in Port Elizabeth, particular attention had been paid to the heavy strapping on the fingers on Warner's left hand - with suggestions in local media that the strapping could've been used to alter the condition of the ball.
Warner responded to that furore by writing the names of his wife, Candice, and kids Ivy Mae and Indi Rae.