Australia’s bowlers have come out swinging with an open letter hitting out at ‘rumour mongering’ about the 2018 sandpaper ball-tampering scandal.
Cameron Bancroft, who was banned for the plot alongside Steve Smith and David Warner, recently sparked a frenzy of fresh questions after suggesting the bowlers knew full well what was going on in South Africa three years ago.
Bancroft said it was ‘probably self-explanatory’ that other players knew about the plot, putting Cricket Australia’s original investigation under an uncomfortable spotlight.
Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon have written an open letter calling for an end to what they call ‘innuendo and rumour-mongering’
Cameron Bancroft’s comments could spark new inquiry into the ball-tampering scandal
And Warner’s agent fanned the flames by adding that ‘the truth will out’, branding the official inquiry into the scandal was ‘so badly handled and ‘a joke’.
The banned trio were vilified by the cricketing public and particularly fans in Australia in what became a national nightmare. They bore the burden of the outrage and subsequent abuse despite suspicions that more players knew what was going on.
In a joint statement (in full below) signed by Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon – who all played in the infamous Cape Town Test – they insisted: ‘We did not know a foreign substance was taken on to the field to alter the condition of the ball until we saw the images on the big screen at Newlands.’
The statement added that the umpires, Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth, did not change the ball ‘because there was no sign of damage’.
Amid widespread scepticism from prominent ex-players, including Michael Clarke and Adam Gilchrist, the bowlers said it was ‘disappointing to see that our integrity has been questioned’, but admitted: ‘None of this excuses what happened on the field that day. It was wrong and should never have happened.’
Meanwhile, Bancroft has told Cricket Australia that he has nothing to add to the board’s original investigation.
Bancroft (pictured) was caught applying sandpaper to the ball against South Africa in 2018
FULL STATEMENT FROM BOWLERS:
We pride ourselves on our honesty. So it’s been disappointing to see that our integrity has been questioned by some journalists and past players in recent days in regard to the Cape Town Test of 2018.
We have already answered questions many times on this issue, but we feel compelled to put the key facts on the record again:
We did not know a foreign substance was taken onto the field to alter the condition of the ball until we saw the images on the big screen at Newlands
And to those who, despite the absence of evidence, insist that ‘we must have known’ about the use of a foreign substance simply because we are bowlers, we say this: The umpires during that Test match, Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth, both very respected and experienced umpires, inspected the ball after the images surfaced on the TV coverage and did not change it because there was no sign of damage.
None of this excuses what happened on the field that day at Newlands. It was wrong and it should never have happened.
We’ve all learned valuable lessons and we’d like to think the public can see a change for the better in terms of the way we play, the way we behave and respect the game. Our commitment to improving as people and players will continue.
We respectfully request an end to the rumour-mongering and innuendo.
It has gone on too long and it is time to move on.
Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitch Starc, Nathan Lyon
Ex-Australia captain Michael Clarke was one of the many skeptics that refused to believe the bowlers were unaware of what was happening.
He told Sky Sports Radio in quotes reported by the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘If you are playing sport at the highest level you know your tools that good it’s not funny.
‘Can you imagine that ball being thrown back to the bowler and the bowler not knowing about it? Please!
Clarke added: ‘I love how the articles in the paper are, “It is such a big surprise that Cameron Bancroft has made a…”
Former Australia captain Michael Clarke has suggested the bowlers knew what was going on
‘Actually, if you read his quotes, it is not what he did say as what he didn’t say in regards to other people knowing about “sandpapergate”.
‘What’s the surprise? That more than three people knew?
‘I don’t think anybody who has played the game of cricket, or knows a little bit about cricket, would know that in a team like that, at the highest level, when the ball is such an important part of the game.
‘I don’t think anybody is surprised that more than three people knew about it.’
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.’
When questioned about others’ knowledge in the Guardian interview, Bancroft, who has played only two Tests since, said: ‘Yeah, look, all I wanted to do was to be responsible and accountable for my own actions and part.
David Warner, Steve Smith (right) and Bancroft (left) were all banned for cheating
David Warner’s agent has insisted the ‘truth will out’ and called the investigation a ‘joke’
‘Yeah, obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory. I guess one thing I learnt through the journey and being responsible is that’s where the buck stops [with Bancroft himself]. Had I had better awareness I would have made a much better decision.’
Asked again if the bowlers knew, following a pause, he is reported to have replied: ‘Uh… yeah, look, I think, yeah, it’s pretty probably self-explanatory.’
During the investigation that followed South Africa’s 322-run victory, only Bancroft, who applied the sandpaper to the ball’s leather surface, plus Smith and Warner were hit with sanctions.
The senior duo served 12-month suspensions and were discounted from leadership positions within Australian teams for two years and life respectively.
Bancroft was banned from all international and domestic cricket for nine months, eventually returning in December 2018.
The scandal also led to the resignation of coach Darren Lehman a few days later.