Former Australia captain Michael Clarke has said he may consider coming out of retirement and leading the national team again if asked by the "right people".
Clarke's comments come after the sporting fraternity, including government agency Australian Sports Commission (ASC), called for the sacking of Steve Smith as captain of the national team after he admitted to orchestrating the ball-tampering incident Saturday, March 24 during the Test match against South Africa in Cape Town.
UPDATE: Eventually, Smith and David Warner stepped down as captain and vice-captain ahead of the fourth day's play of the ongoing Test on Sunday. Wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Paine was appointed the interim captain for the remainder of the Test match.
Clarke, who retired from international cricket after Australia's Ashes defeat in 2015, expressed his disappointment over the actions of the skipper and the "leadership group" who the latter claimed to be responsible for the fiasco.
Cameron Bancroft, the most junior member of the Australian cricket team, was charged by the International Cricket Council (ICC) Saturday after he was caught trying to alter the condition of the cricket ball during the third day of the ongoing Test.
When Smith and the 25-year-old opener faced the media following the end of the day's play, they conceded to have plotted to tamper the ball during Lunch at the Newlands Cricket Ground.
Smith denied the involvement of coaching staff and said the "leadership group" had come up with the plan. The likes of vice-captain David Warner, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood are believed to be part of the group in question.
"If I was asked by right people, then I would think about my answer," Clarke said while responding to a question on Channel Nine, as quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald.
"Steve Smith is such a lovely, lovely guy ... I really feel sorry for him. We have got the best bowling attack in the world. We don't need to cheat to beat anybody.
"Cameron Bancroft, this is his eighth Test match. I can't believe if the leadership group has made a decision to do this that they've gone and got the young kid ... as a leader you can't ask somebody to do something you're not willing to do yourself."
Australian Sports Commission recommended Smith sacking
Earlier in the day, the ASC recommended the sacking of Smith along with other members of the team and coaching staff, who were aware of the ball-tampering incident.
Notably, Cricket Australia (CA) CEO James Sutherland said Saturday was "very sad day for Australian cricket" and ordered a probe into the ball-tampering incident.
"Given the admission by Australian captain Steve Smith, the ASC calls for him to be stood down immediately, along with any other members of the team leadership group or coaching staff who had prior awareness of, or involvement in, the plan," the ASC said in a statement.
"This can occur while Cricket Australia completes a full investigation," it added.
Australian PM shocked, bitterly disappointed
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the nation was "shocked an bitterly disappointed" over the incident. He added that he had spoken to CA authorities and requested them to take "decisive action".
"We all work up this morning shocked and bitterly disappointed by the news from South Africa. It seemed completely beyond belief that the Australian cricket team had been involved in cheating," Turnbull said, as quoted by cricket.com.au.
"After all, our cricketers are role models and cricket is synonymous with fair play.
"I've spoken with David Peever, the Chairman of Cricket Australia, a few moments ago and I've expressed to him very clearly and unequivocally my disappointment and my concern about the events in South Africa.
"He has said to me that Cricket Australia will be responding decisively, as they should."