'Sandpapergate' returns to haunt Australian cricket

Cameron Bancroft lit the fuse last week
Last Updated 18 May 2021, 08:01 IST

Three years after the infamous ball-tampering scandal plunged Australian cricket into crisis, "Sandpapergate" has reared its head again following a suggestion that responsibility for the affair might run deeper than the three players punished for it.

Cameron Bancroft, who was banned for scuffing the ball with a piece of sandpaper during the third test against South Africa in Cape Town in March 2018, lit the fuse last week with a cryptic comment in a newspaper interview.

"Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory," the batsman told the Guardian.

Cricket Australia (CA) have issued a request to Bancroft for any "new" information he might have but the idea that other players would have been aware what was going on at Newlands has found fertile ground in the Australian media.

Read more: Australia board open to new information on ball-tampering scandal

Former test captain Michael Clarke was incredulous at the thought that the Australian bowlers would not have known that the ball was being tampered with.

"If you are playing sport at the highest level you know your tools that good it's not funny," he said on the Sky Sports Radio show he hosts.

"Can you imagine that ball being thrown back to the bowler and the bowler not knowing about it? Please."

CA conducted an investigation into the incident in 2018 and banned Bancroft for nine months, while former captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were suspended for a year.

Warner, who was cast as the ringleader in CA's report, has never spoken publicly in any detail about his role but his agent James Erskine said the three punished players had been "treated despicably".

"The report that was done, they didn't interview all the players. The whole thing was so badly handled, it was a joke," he told The Age newspaper.

"But eventually the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, will come out and I know the whole truth."

Smith and Warner, who unlike Bancroft have re-established themselves in the test side since their bans, returned to Sydney from the Indian Premier League via Maldives on Monday to start two weeks of quarantine.

The Age reported on Tuesday that Bancroft, who is playing county cricket in England, had already replied to CA saying he had no new information about the scandal.

David Saker, Australia's bowling coach at the time of the scandal, said the "finger-pointing" was unlikely to cease any time soon.

"Cameron is a very nice guy, he's just doing it to get something off his chest," he told The Age.

"He's not going to be the last."

(Published 18 May 2021, 08:01 IST)

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