Revealed: 'Why I Couldn't Say No To Cheating'
It's time to call a piece of sandpaper a piece of sandpaper.
"Dave suggested to me to carry the action out on the ball given the situation we were in in the game, and I didn’t know any better because I just wanted to fit in and feel valued, simple as that."
With these words, young West Australian opening batsman Cameron Bancroft took full responsibility for his part in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in March.
But the words also damned his teammate Dave Warner, who instigated the affair.
Bancroft -- who was suspended for nine months for his part in the scandal -- was speaking to Adam Gilchrist in an exclusive Fox Sports interview with which aired during the lunch break on day one of the Boxing Day Test against India at the MCG.
Long before this interview, we already knew that Bancroft was coerced into roughing up the ball with sandpaper in the thirst Test against South Africa in Cape Town in March -- a ploy designed to give his bowlers an unfair advantage by making the ball swing more.
We knew also that he was far from comfortable with having to do it.
"I think he was naive and desperate to belong and so he was caught in a position of ‘what do I do?’,” Western Australia Cricket Association Chief Christine Matthews, told Melbourne's SEN radio earlier this month.
And Now Bancroft has expressed similar sentiments himself. He did it because he wanted to feel valued by the team. He wanted to fit in.
Dave Warner instigated the cheating, and Bancroft was not street smart enough to say no.
"Were you asked to do it?" Gilchrist probed in the interview
"Definitely I was asked to do it," Bancroft answered.
"I guess I just didn’t know how to be true to myself in that moment. I had no prior experience [of a situation like this]."
"At the time did I know any better? No, because I valued this thing called fitting into the team, and this thing called respect from the senior players."
Bancroft did an interesting thing in this interview. Though he mentioned the word "Dave" once -- you sense, inadvertently -- he never actually said the full name "David Warner" or "Dave Warner".
Both he and former captain Steve Smith -- who admitted he turned his back on the cheating in the dressing room when he should have clamped down before it was allowed to happen -- have never gone out of their way to cast Warner as the villain.
But by failing to mention Warner's name today, it felt like Bancroft was screaming it.
To the viewer, it also felt like Warner played the part of a schoolyard bully who coerces a young, naive classmate into some sort of misbehaviour which suits his ends, so that the naive classmate might gain social status.
"You’d hope that fitting in earns you respect..." Bancroft said. "But with that, there came a really big cost for the mistake."
There sure did. Nine months on the sidelines for starters, plus a lifetime of public scrutiny.
To his credit, Bancroft has shown genuine remorse and made himself a better person in the nine months since the scandal. He's done at least double the community service hours required of him. He has also taken up yoga, and is even learning to speak Spanish.
Perhaps the most poignant moment today came when Bancroft talked about what would have happened if he'd said no.
"I've asked myself this question a lot," he said.
"If I had said 'no' and I went to bed that night, I would have had the same problem as using sandpaper on the cricket ball. I would have felt like I had let everyone down, like I let the team down, and hurt our chances to win the game of cricket."
That's pretty incredible, really. Think about it. He actually said that if he DIDN'T agree to cheat, he would have felt like he wasn't a team player.
That speaks volumes of the toxic, win-at-all-costs culture which existed in Australian cricket, and which the recent review has tried to bleed out.