The 2018 ball-tampering scandal will haunt Australian cricket forever, much like the infamous underarm delivery of 40 years ago, the team’s former bowling coach, David Saker, said on Monday.
Saker was responding to opening batsman Cameron Bancroft’s suggestion that Australia’s bowlers knew about the plan in Cape Town to alter the ball, which earned him a nine-month ban and rocked the game.
Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Cameron was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.
While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said ‘the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on’.
‘It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,’ he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.
However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed ‘Sandpapergate’ – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with then captain Steve Smith and deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.
Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their ‘arrogant and controlling’ win-at-all-costs culture.
No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with the Guardian hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.
‘Obviously, what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,’ he said.
Saker added: ‘There was 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.
‘Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … he’s not going to be the last.’
In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.
Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added: ‘I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.’