MELBOURNE: Former Australia opening batsman Cameron Bancroft has broken his silence on the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, casting David Warner as the instigator and himself as an impressionable rookie that just wanted to ‘fit in’ to the team.
Bancroft, who was suspended for nine months for his part in ‘sandpaper-gate’, told former Australia wicket-keeper and now TV pundit Adam Gilchrist in an interview on Fox Sports that Warner had asked him to manipulate the ball and he had readily agreed.
“Dave [Warner] 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,” Bancroft said in comments published by Fox Sports on Wednesday. “I didn’t know any better because I just wanted to fit in and feel valued, really as simple as that.
“The decision was based around my values, what I valued at the time and I valued fitting in … you hope that fitting in earns you respect and with that, I guess, there came a pretty big cost for the mistake.”
Former captain Steve Smith and former vice captain Warner were both banned for 12 months for the ball-tampering incident during the Cape Town Test against South Africa.
Warner was earlier identified by a Cricket Australia investigation as the main instigator of the plan to scuff up the ball. He also said several times during a March media conference that he took ‘full responsibility for the part I played’ in the scandal.
Bancroft’s comments came five days after Smith said he had no part in plotting to alter the condition of the ball but had heard the plan being hatched in the team’s dressing room.
Smith, facing Australian media for the first time since arriving home in disgrace in March, said last Friday he had failed as a leader to prevent the plan from being carried out.
Bancroft, who was caught on camera putting a piece of sandpaper in his trousers when in the field at Cape Town, said he had been a willing accomplice because he was worried that he might let the team down by not going along with the scheme.
At the time, Bancroft had been forging a new Australian Test opening partnership with the more experienced Warner. But he made it clear he did not consider himself a victim.
“I had a choice and I made a massive mistake and that is what is in my control,” said the 26-year-old, who admitted he had often pondered what would have happened if he had said no and concluded it was a no-win situation. “I would have gone to bed and I would have felt like I had let everybody down. I would have left like I had hurt our chances to win the game of cricket.”
Bancroft’s ban expires on Dec 29, while Smith and Warner’s suspensions will be lifted at the end of March.