Distraught former Australia cricket captain Steve Smith was in tears on Thursday as he accepted full responsibility for the ball-tampering scandal that has shaken the sport, saying he was devastated by his "big mistake".
"I want to, as captain of the Australian cricket team, take full responsibility. I made a serious error of judgement and I understand the consequences. It was a failure of leadership," he said before breaking down at a press conference after his arrival in Sydney from Johannesburg.
"I will do everything to make up for my mistake.
"I know I will regret this for the rest of my life. I am absolutely gutted. Cricket is my life and hope it can be again. I'm sorry. I'm absolutely devastated."
Smith and David Warner were stripped from their roles as captain and vice-captain and banned from all international and domestic cricket for a year over their behaviour during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town last weekend.
Opening batsman Cameron Bancroft was suspended for nine months.
Warner was charged by Cricket Australia with developing the plan to use sandpaper to alter the ball to their bowlers' advantage and instructing Bancroft to carry it out.
Smith, who took a handful of questions before breaking down, had effectively turned a blind eye to the plot.
"For me, my weakness ... I have made a big mistake for allowing this to happen," said Smith.
He insisted that the Cape Town incident was the first such transgression and insisted that it won't be repeated.
"To my knowledge this has never happened before. It is the first time, and it will never happen again."
When asked if he blamed David Warner, he said: "I don't blame anyone, I'm the captain, it's on my watch and I take responsibility for what happened in Cape Town."
Smith, a golden boy who has been compared to the legendary Australian Donald Bradman for his batting exploits, added: "I just want to say sorry for the pain I've brought to Australia, to the fans and the public."
The prolific right-hander added that the incident would serve as a lesson to others, and hoped that he could be a "force for change."
“If any good is to come from this it can be a lesson for others and I hope I can be a force for change.
The 28-year-old pleaded forgiveness for the "pain" he has caused to his parents and fans.
“I say two things, or three things,” he said. “Firstly, I'm deeply sorry. I love the game of cricket, I love entertaining young kids, I love kids wanting to play the great game of cricket that I love.
“The two other things is that, any time you think about making a questionable decision, think about who you're affecting, you're affecting your parents.
"To see the way my old man's been ... it hurts. I just want to say I'm sorry for the pain that I've brought to Australia and the fans and the public, it's devastating and I'm truly sorry.
“I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness, I've been so privileged and honoured to represent my country and captain the Australian Cricket Team.
“Cricket is the greatest game in the world. It's been my life, and I hope it can be again.
“I'm sorry and I'm absolutely devastated.”
Warner also broke his silence on Thursday, apologising and accepting his role in the cheating storm.
Bancroft asked for forgiveness on his return to Perth, saying he was ashamed of himself.
With AFP inputs