Even as the Australian cricket team faced a mounting first innings total from India at the MCG in the third Test, the focus has returned on the infamous ‘Sandpapergate.’
Banned players Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith faced questions over their explosive interviews in recent days about the ball-tampering scandal nine months back in Cape Town.
Both interviews, telecast by Australian broadcaster Fox Cricket, during lunch and tea on day one of the Boxing Day Test on Wednesday, primarily painted David Warner as the chief instigator, even though it was Bancroft who was caught in the act and Smith admitted to a failure of leadership. The pre-recorded interviews were conducted by former Australia wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist.
The tell-all comments by the two banned cricketers against the third is widely being seen as a ploy to throw the divisive Warner under the bus.
Bancroft said that he did it on the behest of Warner because he wanted to “fit in and be valued”. Smith on the other hand said that he turned a blind eye towards what was happening, knowing what was planned. He also spoke about the pressure from Cricket Australia to win at all costs.
However, neither interview have been well received. The timing of the interviews has raised a lot of questions around the narrative. Former Australian players and the cricket community on Twitter have made their opinions known.
Here’s what Australia players had to say about the interviews:
The cricketer who conducted the interviews with Bancroft and Smith for Fox Sports perhaps made of one the most important points as he urged Warner to give his side of the story after the others had cornered him.
“There’s no doubt Davey Warner would be feeling so isolated at the moment,” said Gilchrist, “I would encourage Dave to come out wherever and just be honest and as open as you need to be to get back to playing cricket.”
In Bancroft’s interview, as in Cricket Australia’s report before, Warner s made out to be the sole instigator of the incident. But fact is that Smith had said the “leadership group” was in the know back in South Africa.
The former captain was taken aback by the fact that these details are emerging nine months after the incident and during the first day of the crucial Boxing Day Test.
“Some of the things that have been said have been quite shocking to me. We’re nine months on from this stuff and there’s still a lot being spoken about what happened in Cape Town. Now that those stories are out there, it’s going to be interesting to see what the reaction is tomorrow in newspapers and news channels. There’s enough in those stories to raise a few eyebrows,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.
Ponting also expressed his concern over the interviews distracting the Australian players at MCG.
“I’m pretty sure that Painey [Paine] and some of the other guys, they have to leave that behind and move on and worry about what’s happening in the middle of the MCG. Because right now, the series is at absolute fever pitch … so the less distractions the better.”
“Yeah, he could’ve and should’ve come to us,” Lehmann told Macquarie Sports Radio, where he is commentating on the third Test against India in Melbourne. “At the end of the day it was a mistake – we know that. A severe mistake made by the guys and a lot of people have suffered one way or the other through that. We know it shouldn’t have happened, but it did.”
He also said that as captain, Smith should have had “more control” over the situation.
Slater was a lot more direct, blasting Bancroft for throwing Warner under the bus.
“There is a strategy behind Steve Smith and Bancroft, and Dave Warner’s off the radar at the moment. They’re all running some strategy to try and regain respect from the public and from their players. But in those comments, he’s buried Warner,” Slater was quoted as saying by Channel 7.
“They had the chance way back when it happened to tell the truth about the situation. There’s no use now coming back and saying something different that was said then. They all collectively said as that little group that ‘we’re all involved’ and now they’re saying something very different.
“I don’t want to hear it. I know there’s an element of the public that now like to get to the bottom of it, but in terms of a respectful comment on Dave Warner, there’s been none of that.”
Fox Cricket commentator Mark Waugh called out Bancroft, who has played a fair bit of cricket, for making an excuse.
“The one thing I couldn’t quite understand was he said he didn’t really know right from wrong,” Waugh was quoted as saying by Fox Sports.
“That seems to me to be a little bit of an excuse, given that he’s played first-class cricket for a long time, and Test cricket. But the fact that he thought he had to do it to fit into the team, it’s a bit of a sad reflection on what was going on.”
Taylor questioned the need for Bancroft to rake up the issue days before his suspension ends.
“My worry is that we’ve got this with Bancroft coming back and when (David) Warner and (Steve) Smith come back we’ll have more and more stories and to be totally honest it’s the same story we heard nine months ago,” Taylor told Wide World of Sports in an interview.
“Everyone’s going to rehash the story, rewrite them again, about what happened. The media will grab a word or two that might be inconsistent to what we heard nine months ago and create a story out of it.
“Everyone’s going to say that they need to ‘clear the air’ but I don’t think they do. The air in my opinion is clear.
The commentator didn’t hold back, saying the interviews served to “throw more fuel on the fire”.
With AFP inputs