'We pride ourselves on our honesty': Australian bowlers deny knowledge of ball-tampering

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Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins. - AP
Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins. - AP

The Australian bowlers that played in the ‘sandpapergate’ Test match have issued a joint statement denying any knowledge of ball-tampering.

The role of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon in the scandal has come under fresh scrutiny this week after Michael Clarke, the former Australia captain, said the bowlers must have known what was going on in Cape Town three years ago.

“We pride ourselves on our honesty. So it’s been disappointing to see that our integrity has been questioned by some journalists and past players in recent days in regard to the Cape Town Test of 2018,” read the statement released on Starc’s website.

“We have already answered questions many times on this issue, but we feel compelled to put the key facts on the record again.

“We did not know a foreign substance was taken onto the field to alter the condition of the ball until we saw the images on the big screen at Newlands.”

The ball-tampering incident originally re-emerged after Cameron Bancroft, who was banned for his role in the incident alongside Steve Smith and David Warner, suggested that more players were aware of what went on in an interview.

Further scrutiny followed as Clarke and Adam Gilchrist both questioned the legitimacy of Cricket Australia’s investigation into the scandal while David Saker, who was the Australia bowling coach at the time, has hinted that more than three players knew what was going on.

The statement from the four bowlers categorically denied any knowledge of the incident and directly addressed the allegations levelled by former players.

“And to those who, despite the absence of evidence, insist that ‘we must have known’ about the use of a foreign substance simply because we are bowlers, we say this: The umpires during that Test match, Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth, both very respected and experienced umpires, inspected the ball after the images surfaced on the TV coverage and did not change it because there was no sign of damage.

“We respectfully request an end to the rumour-mongering and innuendo. It has gone on too long and it is time to move on.”

The bowlers' statement, in detail

By Jake Goodwill

Rather than request that the statement be published by, oh I dunno, the governing body for cricket in Australia, the Cape Town crew opted instead for that respected publishing outlet www.mitchstarc56.com. Apparently unaccustomed to heavy traffic, the site crashed shortly after the statement was posted.

More deliciously, the slogan on the front page of Starc’s website reads: “Opportunities don’t happen, you create them”.

A bit like getting a cricket ball to swing, in fact.

Here's the statement in full:

To The Australian Public

What a start. Perhaps written in anticipation of the document taking on historical significance for future generations — rather than being the umpteenth rehash of a denial that's been kicking around for three years. The only question is why not go further? Directing this statement only to Australians — approximately 0.33 per cent of the world’s population — feels like a missed opportunity. Think bigger, lads. There's a whole world out there waiting to be convinced that you weren't ball tampering.

We pride ourselves on our honesty. So it’s been disappointing to see that our integrity has been questioned by some journalists and past players in recent days in regard to the Cape Town Test of 2018.

Why is this sorry saga back in the news? Thanks mainly to Cameron Bancroft, who strongly hinted in an interview with the Guardian that he, Steve Smith and David Warner weren't the only ones who knew about the sandpaper. Not content with rubbishing Bancroft's suggestions, the reference to 'past players' is a not-so-subtle reminder that Bancroft, who was dropped by Australia in 2019, is no longer part of the gang. Catty? Not at all.

We have already answered questions many times on this issue, but we feel compelled to put the key facts on the record again:

  • We did not know a foreign substance was taken onto the field to alter the condition of the ball until we saw the images on the big screen at Newlands

  • And to those who, despite the absence of evidence, insist that ‘we must have known’ about the use of a foreign substance simply because we are bowlers, we say this: The umpires during that Test match, Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth, both very respected and experienced umpires, inspected the ball after the images surfaced on the TV coverage and did not change it because there was no sign of damage.

Difficult not to read this direct appeal to you, the doubters, and not recall the infamous victory speech given by reknowned truth-teller Lance Armstrong on the podium at the Tour de France. "The last thing I'll say for the people that don't believe in cycling, the cynics and the sceptics, I'm sorry for you. I'm sorry you can't dream big and I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles." Or is that just a coincidence?

None of this excuses what happened on the field that day at Newlands. It was wrong and it should never have happened.

We’ve all learned valuable lessons and we’d like to think the public can see a change for the better in terms of the way we play, the way we behave and respect the game. Our commitment to improving as people and players will continue.

'Improving as people' is just delicious. This isn't just about cricket, remember; this is about LIFE. Coming soon to a bookshop near you: The Cricketer's Self-Help guide. Authors: Professor Starc, Doctor Cummins, Nurse Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon PhD.

We respectfully request an end to the rumour-mongering and innuendo.

"Respectfully request"?! Nobody's died, guys. A bloke got caught on TV with some sandpaper down his trousers. The respect thing was all downhill from there. As for the 'rumour-mongering' — we're into the big finale now and this allegation certainly spices things up. A gentle reminder at this point that, among the people adding weight to these "rumours​" are David Saker, who was the bowling coach at the time, and Cameron Bancroft, who was *checks notes* on the actual field of play.

It has gone on too long and it is time to move on.

Regards

Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitch Starc, Nathan Lyon

The tone of this ending is all wrong. After coming on all strong, do the awesome foursome suddenly view "The Australian Public" as a vague acquaintance? Perhaps they should have gone with "It was all Steve Smith’s fault" or "We collectively wash our hands of this incident". Either would have been nice. But "regards"? That's no way to kiss and make up.

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