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Awkward reality of Bancroft’s tampering confession

When it comes to confessions on Australia's most controversial cricket topic you can open a door for someone but that doesn't mean they will walk through it.

This, essentially, is the bind Australian cricket faces after Cameron Bancroft ripped the scab off the ball-tampering wounds in an interview in England in which he appeared to claim Australia's bowlers knew what he was up to with when he used sandpaper on the ball in a Cape Town Test of 2018.

CA has since reaffirmed its long held official stance that "anyone with new information should come forward and present it.''

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There lies the problem and the gap which may never be breached.

While Bancroft spoke his mind to an English journalist it would be very surprising if he went the next step and rang CA to deep dive with any fresh evidence.

CA interim chief executive Nick Hockley must now decide whether to be proactive and call Bancroft or let the batsman make his own call.

All at once Australian cricket feels tense and vulnerable but, in a strange sort of way, not surprised.

Cameron Bancroft has opened an awkward can of worms. Picture: AAP/Darren England
Cameron Bancroft has opened an awkward can of worms. Picture: AAP/Darren England

The ball-tampering affair was branded the biggest controversy since the underarm incident but the obvious difference, apart from the fact that the underarm was not illegal, was that Trevor Chappell's delivery was not accompanied by hidden subplots or mysteries.

It was all there in front of us.

That has never been the case with the ball tampering incident where no-one seems quite sure of the full story which remains a mystery to perhaps all but David Warner and he is keeping it to himself … for the moment at least.

Deep down CA sensed moments like this were coming following a relatively narrow investigation between the Cape Town and Johannesburg Tests which CA admitted was partially "fit for purpose'' because the tourists had to know how many players to rush from Australia as replacements.

 

 

 

If one word sums up the fallout to the Bancroft bombshell it would be awkward.

Bancroft's admission did not seem a premeditated pot-stir or conscience-clearing moment.

The slightly cautious way in which he responded to the question of whether the bowlers knew ("Uh … yeah, look, I think, yeah, I think it's pretty probably self-explanatory") hinted he was a man wrestling with magnitude of the moment and the conflicting forces of what he thought was the truth and who he would offend by him saying it.

Then there is the awkwardness of the bowlers who, if they deny the accusations and point the finger back at the banned trio Bancroft, Steve Smith and David Warner, risk reactivating tensions in the group, some of which have never truly healed.

And then there is the Australian Cricketers Association who feel strongly that David Warner's lifetime captaincy ban in Australia should end.

Bancroft's words may give them some ammunition but to fully back Warner they would have to abandon their bowling attack and that would create further problems.

 

Cameron Bancroft after returning from South Africa. Picture: AAP/Tony McDonough
Cameron Bancroft after returning from South Africa. Picture: AAP/Tony McDonough

 

Also dragged into the mix is Australian coach Justin Langer who has been a mentor of Bancroft but fighting hard to maintain the support of his players after losing the Test series against India and cannot afford friction over something this.

Talk about a tightrope walk.

Umpires reckoned the sandpaper did not even damage the ball but it has left a mark on Australian cricket that may never be totally removed.

Originally published as Awkward reality of Bancroft's tampering confession