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Two ball-tamping questions must be answered

James Erskine’s claims that two senior Cricket Australia officials were present when ball-tampering was first discussed in 2016 threatens to derail the entire summer.

Who knew what, and when did they know it? They’re the two big questions that have never been satisfactorily answered over the whole sandpaper affair.

Three players, then-captain Steve Smith, Cameron Bancroft, and Erskine’s client David Warner, were suspended for their roles after the matter blew up in spectacular fashion in Cape Town in 2018.

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All three players accepted the punishments handed out, removing the need for a hearing at the time.

“I can promise you this is the first time it’s happened,” Smith said after Cape Town.

Erskine’s allegations now cast doubt over that statement, even if Smith thought it was true at the time.

“The truth will come out,” Erskine told SEN.

“You’d have to be a blind black Labrador to (not) realize that there was far more than three people involved in this thing,” Erskine claimed.

CA banned Smith and Warner for 12 months, and Bancroft for nine months, after a review, headed by then-Head of Integrity Iain Roy. Smith was banned from a leadership role for a further 12 months, while Warner received a lifetime leadership ban.

Australian ball tamping scandal 2018

Wide World of Sports spoke to former Australian captains Mark Taylor and Ian Chappell, along with former wicketkeeper Ian Healy, on the first anniversary of Sandpapergate.

Their 2019 comments are worth considering in light of Erskine’s allegations.

Taylor, who was a CA board member at the time of the Cape Town Test, conceded Roy’s investigation was only confined to the events in South Africa.

“There was no probe into finding out how long it had been going on for,” Taylor told Wide World of Sports in 2019.

“Was this the first time? There’s no doubt this ‘ball management’ has been going on for a long time, and I dare say every country is either doing it or working out how to do it, but there’s a line somewhere between ball management and ball tampering.

“The gray area in all of this is how much of this ball management in the past was tampering and went unnoticed.”

Healy was one who wasn’t buying Smith’s view that Cape Town was a one-off.

“They’d certainly been doing it for some time,” he claimed.

Chappell described the fact that Smith and Warner received different penalties as “bullshit” and “the greatest load of bollocks I’ve ever heard.”

As crimes go, Sandpapergate ranks among the most brainless ever seen.An overseas Test match with TV cameras everywhere and a host broadcaster who was reportedly suspicious that something was going on.

“I think it’s even more stupid, the more information that I’ve got,” Chappell said in 2019.

“They were warned that they were being watched during the first Test, and this blew up in the third Test.

At a time when much of the discussion has centered around whether or not the public has fallen out of love with the Australian team, bringing the events of Cape Town 2018 to the fore once again can only harm the game.

But as long as there’s a suspicion that the full story is yet to be told, the turbulent events of Sandpapergate will continue to cast a long shadow over cricket in this country.

Wide World of Sports has approached Cricket Australia for comment.

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