Australian ball-tampering scandal takes fresh twist as Michael Clarke claims bowlers must have known

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·6-min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Steve Smith and David Warner. - GETTY IMAGES
Steve Smith and David Warner. - GETTY IMAGES

Former Australia captain Michael Clarke has said the bowlers must have known about the ball-tampering in Cape Town three years ago as the scandal threatens to tear apart Australian cricket yet again.

Clarke, the most recent captain before Steve Smith, said Test bowlers are always aware of the state of the ball and are protective about its condition so would have known if it had been changed.

The ball-tampering scandal has reopened after Cameron Bancroft hinted of other players being involved over the weekend. Cricket Australia has confirmed it will contact Bancroft to find out if he has any new evidence.

“They’ve got to hold the ball to bowl with it,” Clarke said. “So, if there’s sandpaper being rubbed on the ball they have to get the ball back to the bowler and the bowler has to hang on to it before he lets it go. If you are playing sport at the highest level you know your tools that good it’s not funny. Can you imagine that ball being thrown back to the bowler and the bowler not knowing about it? Please.”

Stuart Broad echoed Clarke’s view, saying it is drilled into England as a team to look after the ball. “I’ve obviously never bowled within the Australian bowling attack but I can talk about how, in an England Test team, if I miss the seam by four millimetres Jimmy Anderson's on at me ‘why has this ball got a mark on it here; it’s because you've missed the seam: start hitting the seam, will you’,” he said.

“As an England team we are very aware that if we are trying to get the ball reversing every player has to buy into it or it will stop reversing. I have seen a couple of comments from David Warner’s agent and I think it will be an interesting time when he stops playing for Australia and writes a book.”

Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon were the bowlers who played in the Test but none were interviewed by the Cricket Australia investigators. Only Smith, Bancroft and David Warner were punished.

“It will linger forever, whether it is someone’s book or an ad hoc interview,” Australia great Adam Gilchrist said on his Gilly and Goss show. “Eventually I think names will be named. I think there are some people who have it stored away and are ready to pull the trigger when the time is right. The fallout is going to linger on and on because pretty much most teams in the world were doing something with the ball in that period. It was getting out of control.

“I think Cricket Australia are responsible for why this will be continually asked. They went there and did this very quick review of that isolated incident and perhaps no-one in the team knew.”

“The report that was done, they didn’t interview all the players. The whole thing was so badly handled, it was a joke,” said James Erskine, Warner's agent. “But eventually the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, will come out and I know the whole truth. But it doesn’t serve any purpose because the Australian public over a period of time got to dislike the Australian team because they didn’t behave particularly well.

“There is absolutely no doubt that Smith, Warner and Bancroft were treated despicably. The fact of the matter is they did the wrong thing but the punishment didn’t fit the crime. I think if one or two of those players had taken legal action they would have won because of what the truth was.”

Australian cricket has been plunged back into the ball-tampering crisis of three years ago just as Steve Smith hopes to regain the captaincy he lost after the cheating incident in Cape Town.

Bancroft, the opening batsman who was caught scuffing the ball with sandpaper, indicated in an interview with the Guardian at the weekend that the bowlers also knew what was going on. Only Bancroft, Smith and David Warner were found guilty of any involvement in the incident at the time.

Cameron Bancroft - Mark Pinder
Cameron Bancroft - Mark Pinder

Cricket Australia responded to Bancroft’s comments by issuing a statement saying they would look into any new evidence.

Now David Saker, who was the Australia bowling coach at the time, has hinted — in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald — at collective responsibility and wider knowledge of what was going on.

“The disappointing thing is it’s never going to go away. Regardless of what’s said. We all know that we made a monumental mistake. The gravity wasn’t as plain until it all came out,” he said. “There were a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.”

Saker believes the ball-tampering affair will dog Australian cricket for decades, and drew parallels with the under-arm incident involving Trevor Chappell in 1981.

Bancroft, currently playing for Durham, was banned for nine months for his part in the incident and has not played for Australia since losing his place during the 2019 Ashes. “Uh … yeah, look, I think, yeah, I think it’s pretty probably self-explanatory,” he said when asked if the bowlers knew what was going on in Cape Town.

The dredging up of the ball-tampering saga could not come at a worse time for Smith as his bid to regain the captaincy gathers momentum. A month ago he publicly declared he would like his old job back when Tim Paine steps down, probably at the end of this winter’s Ashes series. Paine also backed Smith for the job. It could also be potentially embarrassing for Pat Cummins, Paine’s deputy and Smith’s main rival for the job, because he was part of the bowling attack in Cape Town.

But despite the statement from CA there is unlikely to be any great desire to reopen the case. An inquiry found that Smith, David Warner and Bancroft were the guilty players. Darren Lehmann resigned as head coach. James Sutherland stood down as CA’s chief executive and performance director Pat Howard left his role as part of sweeping changes at the top of Australian cricket. The investigation only focussed on the Cape Town Test and did not look into whether there had been any previous examples of ball tampering.

Alastair Cook wrote in his book in 2019 that Warner admitted to ball-tampering during a first-class match in the 2017/18 Ashes when it was noticeable the Australian attack found more swing than England.

“David Warner, a couple of beers into his celebration, mentioned that he used substances attached to the strapping on his hand to accelerate the deterioration of the ball during a first-class match,” wrote Cook. “I looked at Steve Smith who shot a glance that said: ‘Ooh, you shouldn’t have said that,”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting