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Australia cricket ball-tampering scandal: A gentleman's shame

Australia opener Cameron Bancroft caught on camera rubbing the ball with something which looked like sandpaper.

Published: 25th March 2018 02:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th March 2018 01:57 PM   |  A+A-

Cameron Bancroft (AP)

Express News Service

Australia opener Bancroft caught on camera rubbing the ball with something which looked like sandpaper. Skipper Smith admits ‘leadership group’ was responsible for the plan, says coach Lehmann was not involved. Sanctions for ball tampering include fine and/or suspension. Even the skipper can be penalised if he is found responsible.

On September 20, 2013, Cameron Bancroft, then an upcoming 21-year-old Western Australian cricketer, tweeted, “Speed cameras are very sneaky nowadays.” Even TV cameras, Bancroft. Even TV cameras.
A lot happened during the third day of the third Test between Australia and South Africa in Cape Town. During a frustrating passage of play for the visitors, cameras caught Bancroft applying a foreign object (he later said it was yellow tape) to the ball. Moments after it was aired on the giant screen at Newlands, 12th man Peter Handscomb was on the ground passing on a message to Bancroft.

Visuals suggested that Bancroft, who only made his debut during the first Ashes Test in November, hid the object in his underwear. The on-field umpires, who had seen the same visuals, questioned the opener when play was going on but he lied to them. The object he handed over to them resembled a small black cloth, like a pouch for keeping sunglasses.

The umpires were satisfied by his explanation and let play go on without changing the ball and/or awarding five runs to the opponents — which the rule book states the umpires are empowered to do if they believe the ball has been tampered with. But much water had already flown un­der the bridge. All sorts of camera angles had shown that Bancroft had used the foreign object — which looked like sandpaper to the naked eye — to try and alter the texture or shape of the ball.

Australia skipper Steve Smith admitted as much before media. He even said it was pre-meditated. “The leadership gr­o­up knew,” he said. “We spoke about it at lunch. I’m not proud of what’s happened. It’s not within the spirit of the game. My integrity, the team’s integrity, the leadership group’s integrity has come into question and rightfully so. It’s certainly not on and it won’t happen again.” That was tantamount to an international captain admitting that his team had willingly planned to cheat and executed their plan.

Bancroft, whose first press conference last November saw him engage in mindgames with Jonny Bairstow (“he headbutted me as a form of greeting”), fronted up because he was the one who carried out team orders. “I saw an opportunity to use some tape, get some granules from the rough patches on the wicket and try to change the ball condition,” he said. “But once I was sighted on the greens (...), that resulted in me shoving it down my trousers.  I was in the vicinity when the leadership group were discussing it. I was nervous about it because with hundreds of cameras around that’s always the risk. I sit before you today and I am not proud of what’s happened.”

One person who seems to have escaped attention, at least in the short term, is coach Darren Lehmann. Smith, who said he will not step down, exonerated the coach. “The coaches weren’t involved. It was the players in the leadership group who came up with this.” This is hard to believe considering the same cameras picked up visuals of Le­hmann conveying a message to Handscomb — both were holding walkie-talkies — before he entered the ground.

Smith, who was involved in a famous ‘brainfade’ during the India series last year, refused to take names. “I am not naming names but the leadership group was who talked about it and ‘Bangers’ (Bancroft) was around at the time. Obviously, it didn’t work.” It did not. Thanks to those sneaky cameras.



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