27 Jul 2018, 14:11 IST
What’s the story
Australia batsman, Peter Handscomb, has explained that he has no involvement whatsoever, in the epic sandpaper-ball tampering scandal of March 2018. He has also claimed that the footage was edited in such a way, that it showed as if he was involved in relaying coach Lehmann’s instructions to Cameron Bancroft.
In case you didn’t know…
In March 2018, the Aussie team was in a tour at South Africa to play a total of 4 Test matches against the hosts. It was during this tour that the ball-tampering scandal took place.
During the 3rd Test, after Lunch on Day 3, events started unfurling, when all of a sudden young Aussie batsman, Cameron Bancroft, was shown on television coverage, rubbing the ball with a yellow object.
After he realized that he had been seen, he hid the object inside his trousers, and as the match umpires approached him to know what he was hiding, he revealed a pair of sunglasses from his pocket, with no sign of the yellow object.
When the ball was inspected, the umpires did not find it to be altered in any noticeable way, and hence decided to continue the game like nothing happened. However, the social media, among other places, took the incident up massively.
At the press conference at the end of the day’s play, Bancroft was accompanied by Australia’s then-captain, Steve Smith, and the duo admitted that they were attempting to alter the condition of the ball using a piece of yellow tape to which dirt and grit had adhered, thereby forming an abrasive surface to smooth up another object, in this case, the ball itself.
No action was taken during the course of the match. As it ended, and a few days later, an investigation into the incident by the Cricket Australia (CA) board. Steve admitted that the object used was sandpaper, something that is commonly used by cricketers to maintain the smoothness in their cricket bats.
He also added that he knew of Bancroft’s actions in advance, as a “leadership group” involving himself and a few others had taken the decision to do so during the lunch break. Match referee, Andy Pycroft, in turn, charged Bancroft with an ICC Level-2 offense, 3 demerit points and a fine of 75% of match fee.
Cricket Australia decided to ban Smith and Bancroft from international cricket for a year and nine months respectively, along with opening batsman Warner, who was also part of the “planning squad”. Warner was also handed a 1-year ban. Coach Lehmann also assumed responsibility for the incident and resigned from his position.
They have since spoken publicly to the media, visibly repenting their actions and promising never to repeat it, provided they make a comeback. Smith also stepped down from his captaincy across formats. The three players have since not played international cricket, Smith, and Warner also received bans from the IPL, though they have played in other tournaments like the Global T20 Canada.
The video that became very popular in social media and television news channels and the like, showed Bancroft rubbing the sandpaper on the ball, and as he was spotted, head coach Lehmann was seen instructing Handscomb over the walkie-talkie. Handscomb was seen sharing a chat and a laugh with Bancroft, after which the latter hid the sandpaper inside his pants.
Handscomb has now claimed that the two different shots, one where he talks to Lehmann and the other with Bancroft, had a time difference of almost twenty minutes, explaining that there was no relation between the two events. It was for the first time since the incident that Handscomb had spoken publicly on the issue.
“I love that footage because it’s actually amazing how much the media edited it. So, it shows me on the walkie-talkie then running out and talking to Cam (Bancroft). What happened, I am on the walkie-talkie. Twenty minutes, 25 minutes later, a player comes off because they need to go to the bathroom. I am next to it so that’s why I come on. I get put into a catching position next to Cam because we are both short catches… we are front of the wicket catchers or in slips together,” he said. “That’s why I was there, literally just trying to have a joke with him. There was nothing else. All this build-up about me trying to do something there, it wasn’t there,” he explained while speaking to cricket.com.au.
A green vest, he had donned in the first scene, indicated his role as a substitute. However, after he was made to come on the ground in replacement of a player, in the second scene of the video, the vest was absent. He used that as evidence of how the video has been edited. However, he admitted that coach Lehmann had indeed asked him on what was going on in the ground as the row happened, but added that it was the only way he was involved in it.
As Smith, Warner, and Bancroft have found themselves away from the squad, Handscomb has managed to find a place in the starting Xl of the Aussie squads, thereby benefitting from the whole affair.
However, he is not too pleased with how he got his opportunities, as he feels that he hasn’t earned it himself. “It was a bit of a shame to come back into the Test side under those circumstances – I had really wanted to get back in through sheer work and put numbers on the board and make sure I was doing all the right things,” he said.
In a career spanning 13 Tests, 8 ODIs, and no T20Is, he played his last ODI against India in 2017 and hasn’t played a Test match since the 4th Test against South Africa, immediately after the sandpaper incident.
His next chance to impress will be against India as he tours the country with Australia A, as they play a couple of 4-day Tests against India A, apart from involving with the same side as they play a quadrangular series, also featuring South Africa A, India A, and India B. He is aware that he has to make a good impression on selectors during the series, in order to further cement his place in the Australian national squad.
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