Retired umpire Ian Gould has revealed that the umpires involved with the 2018 Test match between South Africa and Australia had their suspicions about the visitors’ aggressive handling of the ball.
In his recently released Gunner: My Life In Cricket, Gould, who joined the series at the halfway mark to officiate the Cape Town and Johannesburg Tests as third umpire, revealed that all officials were already suspecting the Australians of illegal practice on the ball after the first two encounters.
The series and the Australian team were mired in controversy on day three when batsman Cameron Bancroft was caught on the live broadcast hiding a piece of sandpaper in his trousers.
Gould writes that he received a message upon his arrival in South Africa that a close eye should be kept on Australia and they aggressive manner in which they work on the condition of the ball.
This led to the SuperSport camera crew being briefed by the ICC officials to inform the umpires as soon as they spot anything suspicious during the Test match.
‘A few days before I headed to Cape Town, Chris Gaffaney, the very capable New Zealander who was third umpire for the first Test in Durban, and had stood with Kumar Dharmasena in Port Elizabeth in the second match, left a message on my phone, warning me that things were starting to get a little bit out of hand,’ writes Gould.
‘The umpiring team had their suspicions that Australia were working a little too aggressively on the condition of the ball, and they had an informal word with the host broadcaster SuperSport asking that if their camera crew saw anything that looked unusual they should let the umpires know.’
And, that is exactly what transpired on the overcast Saturday afternoon when the broadcasters replayed the actions of Bancroft, which was also shown on the big screen at Newlands.
It immediately led to a discussion between the on-field umpires Nigel Long and Richard Illingworth and Bancroft and his captain Steve Smith.
Smith, Bancroft and then vice-captain David Warner were all banned in the days that followed with coach Darren Lehman resigning from his role as a result after the final Test at the Wanderers.
All of them, though, have since then denied that it is something that the Australian team have implemented in the past.
‘The media’s investigation into what happened at Cape Town was very thorough, but it did surprise me that it took until the eve of the final Test before the coach resigned,’ continues Gould.
‘Look, I like Darren. I umpired him many times when he was playing for Yorkshire and admired him as a player, he was one of the best batsmen we had in the county game during the first half of this century. But I firmly believe that the coach sets the tempo for the team and in South Africa in 2018 Darren’s team went way too far.’
Gould further accounts for Warner’s reaction to him after fast-bowler Kagiso Rabada won his appeal against an ICC sanction for bumping into Smith during the second Test in Port Elizabeth.
‘Well Gunner, where’s the f***ing line in the sand now?’ was Warner’s words towards the umpire as he suggested that the umpires in the first two clashes weren’t experienced enough for the responsibility.
‘Two of the three lads who did the first two Tests were relatively inexperienced. Dharmasena had stood in over 50 Tests but Chris was in only his 19th game and the other umpire, Sundaram Ravi from India, had fewer than 25 Tests under his belt and within a year or so had been kicked off the elite panel because he wasn’t deemed good enough.
‘Like I said, hindsight is a wonderful thing but I’m absolutely sure the English trio including me would have got on top of things from the off. More things had happened in those first two Tests than you normally have to deal with in a five-match series,’ Gould writes.