“Speed cameras are very sneaky nowadays”
Cameron Bancroft, who went from an unobtrusive figure in Australia's intimidating Test squad to overnight villain after the ball tampering fiasco, tweeted the above way back in 2013.
The tweet went viral five years later on a fateful Saturday after TV cameras caught him using a yellow tape to alter the condition of the cricket ball in the ongoing Newlands Test against South Africa.
The greenhorn Australian opener faced the music alongside Steven Smith in the press conference and had little choice but to acknowledge that he was guilty of wrongdoing.
“We had a discussion during the lunch break and I saw an opportunity to use some tape, get some granules from the rough patches on the wickets and change the condition. It didn't work, the umpires didn't change the ball. I was cited on the screen and that resulted in me shoving it [yellow tape] down my trousers,” Bancroft said at the press conference.
Steven Smith, plausibly the ringleader and certainly the most important member of the “leadership group” admitted to have planned to change the condition of the ball as a “possible way to get an advantage”.
"I'm not naming names but the leadership group were what talked about it and Bangers (Bancroft) was around at the time and we spoke about it,” Smith said at the same press conference.
While Bancroft, the primary culprit here, deserves no less than a ban, on one level you think if he really is the perpetrator. Smith admitted to not just being privy to the tampering but also planning it over a “discussion” at lunch.
The leadership group had to zero in on the most innocuous, disposable member in the side to execute their devious, evil yet stupid, plan. Who better than Bancroft to turn to?
The Western Australian opener has endured a torrid time since being introduced to Test cricket, averaging less than 30 in 12 innings’ with no more than two half-centuries. He hadn't even been the first name in most people's list to replace Matt Renshaw before the Ashes, but had somehow fought his way in only to make poorer returns than his predecessor.
Now, right in the heat of a fierce rivalry, Bancroft, facing an almost certain axe after the series, found himself in the “wrong place at the wrong time”. The “leadership group” apparently assigned him with the despicable task of using foreign material to rub the ball in order to aid reverse swing.
Bear in mind that Bancroft is the least experienced member of the Australian Test team. Did he have any choice but to obey the instructions laid out to him by the so called leadership group? With his place under scrutiny, criticism of his bleak returns with the bat making headlines and an assured Matt Renshaw waiting to win back his place in the side, the least Bancroft could do to save his Test career was to please his skipper (and coach perhaps).
Obviously, he is no 14-year-old kid who picked up the sport few weeks ago while on vacation with his grandparents and is as guilty as the others who planned and plotted this. But as a newbie in the side, he was expected to “take one for the team” which is rather unfair.
Memory jogs back to Salman Butt and seventeen year old Mohammad Amir and an even more disgraceful incident in England. Though the spot-fixing case was a graver folly, the sandpapergate, as this incident is trending, is merely a minor version of the same.
The real miscreants lurked in the background and conveniently chose to make the apprentice the scapegoat.
“My integrity, the team's integrity, the leadership groups integrity has come into question and rightfully so. It's certainly not on and it won't happen again, I can promise you that under my leadership,” Smith said at the press conference.
Does he think of Bancroft's future while owning up to this vile, dishonourable act? All of seven Tests old, young Bancroft will, in all likelihood, be remembered more for this incident than any of his batting performances in an otherwise ordinary Test career.
The footage, viewed by millions across the globe, tarnishes his name and places a permanent black spot next to his career which has hardly taken off yet.
“It’s not fair to nail Cameron Bancroft on it either. I don't think he would have made that decision by himself. We've got to get to the bottom of it. You know when you get caught you've got to own up and be honest. The Aussies have to be honest and say this is how it happened,” Shane Warne commented rightly.
Steven Smith did come out into the open and admitted to committing a “first time” mistake. But what happens to Bancroft? With few runs in his kitty, a clear as daylight video footage to scar him for life and a possible attempt to please the higher management gone wrong, the Australian opener's hopes for a long international career has spiralled down at the rate of knots.
Evidently, Bancroft just carried out the plans created by the leadership group. It doesn't make him any less of a culprit but how often do players really oppose their bosses?
Should Bancroft have stood up against Smith and other members of the leadership group and refused to commit the act? Maybe. But it's not as easy as it sounds when his career is at stake.
All said and done, Bancroft would probably be watching the fourth Test from the comfort of his home while the fate of the actual planners garner more attention. Smith would probably return to lead the side unless Cricket Australia takes stern steps, a likely possibility at this point of time.
But will Bancroft play another Test? After all, he has little to show in terms of runs and integrity. His future, especially after the ball tampering saga, is hanging by a thread.