Over 3.1 - Smith and Bancroft interviews - an ordinary publicity stunt
In March of 2018, Australian cricket was rocked by the Newlands scandal that is now famously called sandpaper-gate. Captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and opening batsman Cameron Bancroft were suspended for their roles in premeditating the tampering of the ball with the use of sandpaper.
Nine months on, and a lot has changed. Tim Paine is the new captain of the Australian cricket team and leading admirably I must say, the Australian cricket hierarchy has had a complete revamping, India is on the cusp of winning their first series in Australia ( not quite ) and I have a 5-month-old. But a lot has stayed the same. Virat Kohli is still making a mountain of runs, New Zealand is still the most loved cricket team by the neutrals, MCG is still a poor cricket pitch and Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft are still either very poorly advised or making poor decisions.
Fox Cricket yesterday aired both Smith's and Bancroft's version of what happened at Newlands. And I feel that they have caused more damage to their reputations than earned sympathy from the cricketing public. The interviews were more suited for "Oprah" or "60 minutes" then as fillers for the lunch or tea break. The timing and the substance were all wrong. The drama was weak and the plot even weaker. One thing is for certain, they have definitely thrown Warner under the bus and the public now has every right to hear from the final piece of the Trinity- and from Warner himself.
Bancroft is the greenest of them all in terms of cricketing experience. But at the age of 26, he cannot use the excuse that he was too young to think clearly. He valued "fitting in" as his first priority. I am not questioning anything that Bancroft mentioned in his interview, which I feel is the truth. I am questioning the timing. To bring his dirty laundry out on the biggest day in the Australian cricketing calendar is poor form. The attention rather than being on the cricket has been on the revelations. The alarming thing is that Bancroft mentioned in his interview that he felt that he would have let the team down if he did not carry out the action. That raises some really interesting question regarding the values that the Australian cricket team prioritize.
I watched Smith bat and help Sutherland win the Kingsgrove T20s at the SCG last fortnight. He is a polite man with a supremely gifted talent with the bat in hand. This is the Steve Smith that the public wants to watch. The one who accumulates an extraordinary amount of runs and is a pleasant young man underneath a nervous frontier. Similar to Bancroft, Smith decided to use the same medium and same day to unwrap the events of the saga. Smith mentioned that he "did not want to know anything about it" and that it "was a failure on my (Smith's) leadership". Smith pointed fingers at the former CA chief James Sutherland and high-performance manager Pat Howard, for creating the win-at-all-cost mentality. And oh wait, he also mentioned the role of Warner. As if the Vodafone advertisement was not enough.
Both Smith and Bancroft accepted blame but has indirectly blamed Warner for coming up with the plot to illegally tamper with the ball. It would have been much more respectable if they scored tons of runs, stayed away from commercial avenues to air their opinions and opened up much earlier than yesterday to tell the public about what happened. I am not a big fan of Warner, however, the aggressive campaign to push the blame entirely to him is off the mark. What does Warner have to say about the incident? Is this a one-off situation? Will Warner be discarded from the Australian cricketing circles? Is Smith going to captain again? Are the relationships between Smith, Bancroft and Warner untenable? These are some intriguing questions that will probably be answered in the near future. But unfortunately, these interviews have not painted Smith and Bancroft in a positive light.