David Saker, the former Australia bowling coach, has said there were “a lot of people to blame” for the 2018 ball-tampering affair that has resurfaced following Cameron Bancroft’s recent interview with the Guardian.
Bancroft, one of the three players hit with lengthy bans for the Cape Town incident along with Steve Smith and David Warner, replied “the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory” when asked if some of the bowlers knew what was occurring.
It prompted Cricket Australia to state on Saturday that anyone with new information should come forward. Saker, the coach of the seamers at the time before leaving his post in 2019, has acknowledged that talk of wider culpability is inevitable.
Saker told the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald: “Obviously a lot of things went wrong at that time. The finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on. 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. You could point your finger at me, you could point your finger at Boof [then head coach, Darren Lehmann], could you point it at other people, of course you could.
“The disappointing thing is it’s never going to go away. Regardless of what’s said. We all know that we made a monumental mistake. The gravity wasn’t as plain until it all came out.”
Cricket Australia’s own investigation into the events that took place during the third Test against South Africa concluded it was an isolated incident, with a nine-month ban following for Bancroft – the junior player caught applying sandpaper to the ball – and Smith, then captain, and Warner, his deputy, suspended for a year.
While Warner was also barred from leadership roles for the remainder of his career, Smith’s equivalent sanction was two years and has since expired, with suggestions he could return to the captaincy after his replacement Tim Paine, 36, retires.
Writing in his autobiography two years ago, Alastair Cook, the former England captain, claimed Warner spoke to him about ball-tampering methods over a beer following the 2017-18 Ashes that preceded Australia’s ill-fated South Africa tour.
Cook wrote: “Warner, a couple of beers into his celebration, mentioned that he used substances attached to the strapping on his hand to accelerate the deterioration of the ball during a first-class match. I looked at Steve Smith who shot a glance that said: ‘Ooh, you shouldn’t have said that.’”