The ball-tampering saga in the Australian cricket seems to have taken a new twist with several Australian publications claiming that vice captain David Warner was the brain behind #SandpaperGate and is now in the cross hairs of his teammates, even exiting the team’s WhatsApp group.
On Saturday, Australia’s Cameron Bancroft and captain Steve Smith had admitted to ball-tampering during the third Test against South Africa, sending shock-waves through cricket.
Then, a contrite-looking Smith had said that decision was taken my the leadership unit as a whole. This was known to have included the captain and his deputy, coach Darren Lehmann and seniors Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon. Smith was given a one-match ban and forfeited 100% of his match fee by the ICC, while Bancroft was docked 75% of his match fee. No other Australian player was penalised.
This lead to uproar across the cricketing community, with calls for his resignation coming from all sides, with even the Australian Prime Minister getting involved. However, it appears that Warner is now the central figure in this, according to the Australia media.
According to The Age, Warner “is at heart of ball-tampering scandal.”
While he has not been reprimanded officially, it is likely that Cricket Australia will not spare him. He is set to miss the fourth Test as well, along with Smith.
“Those in the hierarchy at CA have been made aware of suggestions that the vice-captain was the chief conspirator and that Smith foolishly agreed. Sources close to Warner, however, deny that he was the instigator,” said The Age report.
The Herald Sun has suggested that Warner was willing to blame on his teammates to save himself saying, “the scandal has torn apart the Australian dressing room and sparked a massive falling-out between David Warner and the team’s irate fast bowlers.”
Foxsports.com.au has reported that “Warner removed himself from a WhatsApp group between the players, with one source saying he had ‘gone rogue’ since news of the ball tampering saga broke.”
The same publication has also said that Warner reportedly fell out with team mates, swilled champagne in the bar of the team hotel, and was spotted sitting alone. The others have reportedly asked him to be removed before an incident occurs.
With the narrative increasingly becoming anti-Warner, several media persons and outlets are saying that it was Warner who is central figure in the scandal, with Smith taking the blame for not saying anything to stop them as captain.