STEVE SMITH broke down as he addressed a press conference in Sydney after being sent home from South Africa.
An emotional Smith apologised to all Australians and conceded that the ball-tampering scandal was “a serious failure of my leadership”.
Smith, who was stripped of the captaincy and banned for 12 months, fought back tears as he said: To all Australians who are disappointed and angry, I’m sorry,.
“I want to make clear that as captain of the Australia cricket team I take full responsibility. I made a serious error of judgement.
“It was a serious failure of my leadership. I’ll do everything I can to make up for my mistake and the damage it’s caused.
“If any good can come of this, if there can be a lesson to others, then I hope I can be a force for change.”
Smith was adamant that the Cape Town incident was the first time Australia had ball-tampered during his tenure.
“To my knowledge this has never happened before,” he added.
“This is the first time I’ve seen this happen and I can assure you it will never happen again.
“I don’t blame anyone. I’m the captain of the Australian team, it’s on my watch and I take responsibility for what happened in Cape Town last Saturday.
“I know I’ll regret this for the rest of my life, I’m absolutely gutted. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness.
“I’ve been so privileged and honoured to represent my country and captain Australia. Cricket is the greatest game in the world and it’s been my life - I hope it can be again. I’m absolutely devastated.”
Smith was asked what message he would send to children that follow cricket.
He said: “I’ll say two things... three things. 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: any time you think about making a questionable decision, think about who you’re affecting. You’re affecting your parents and to see the way my old man’s been... it hurts.”
Losing his focus as he broke down, Smith forgot the third point he intended to make, adding: “I can’t remember what else.”
Concluding his press conference, he said: “I just want to say I’m sorry for the pain that I guess I’ve brought to Australia and the fans and the public. It’s devastating and I’m truly sorry.”
Earlier, Cameron Bancroft admitted he felt “like I’ve let everyone down” after his involvement in the ball-tampering scandal.
The Australian opener was banned for nine months by Cricket Australia after attempting to alter the condition of the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa, with Smith and vice-captain David Warner - CA found that the latter had come up with the idea - handed 12-month bans.
Speaking for the first time since the ban was announced, Bancroft said: “I feel like I’ve let everyone down in Australia.
“People know that I’ve worked so hard to get this opportunity in my career and I’ve given someone else an opportunity for free. I’m going to work so hard to get back this dream I’ve had since I was a kid of playing for Australia.”
A clearly emotional Bancroft insisted the Cape Town incident was a one-off.
“I have never ever been involved in tampering with the ball and it completely compromises my values and what I stand for as a player and a person,” he added.
“For Australian cricket it’s not acceptable.
“That’s also a big learning curve for me that I had the opportunity to take control of my own values and my own actions and I didn’t - and that’s a real embarrassment for me. I’m sorry for what’s entailed since then.”
Warner, in a statement posted on Twitter, said: “Mistakes have been made which have damaged cricket.
“I apologise for my part and take responsibility for it.
“I understand the distress this has caused the sport and its fans.
“It’s a stain on the game we all love and I have loved since I was a boy.”
The Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) has said there were a number of “glaring and clear anomalies” in the process leading up to the bans for Smith, Warner and Bancroft.
The Magellan Financial Group have terminated their partnership with Cricket Australia in light of the scandal.