Explained: Sandpaper Gate Reopened


While the history of great cricketing nations like India, Pakistan, and South Africa are tainted with cheating stories through various means like match-fixing and spot-fixing, the two original cricketing nations, Australia and England, take cheating in the game very seriously.

Australian cricket is a proud fraternity for how their players always uphold the spirit of the game, at least legally. This is why the sandpaper fiasco in the 2018 test played in Cape Town between South Africa and Australia was such a big deal for the country.

Ball-tampering may seem like a minor deal to people who casually follow the sport, but let’s talk about its impact in detail. The game of cricket is all about the contest between bat and ball. When the ball interacts with various external factors like pitch, air, and the speed with which it’s thrown, it reacts and does things. The more these variables are pushed to the extreme, the more things the ball does.

To get reverse swing for a pace bowler, one side of the ball should be rough, and the other should be smooth. The more drastic the difference, the more serious lateral movement will be seen. This is why using sandpaper to rub on the ball to make it dramatically rough on one side will get the bowler’s reverse swing with an old ball.

Cameron Bancroft, the Australian opening batsman, was convicted of using a small piece of sandpaper to roughen the ball up. Steve Smith and David Warner, the captain and vice-captain at the time, had knowledge of Bancroft’s activity and didn’t stop him, making them too complicit. Cricket Australia suspended the convicted players for 1 year from all cricket. That should’ve been the end of that fiasco, as it has already been 3 years since.

“Uh … yeah, look, I think, yeah, I think it’s pretty probably self-explanatory.”

Bancroft on being asked about the involvement of bowlers in the incident.

But recently, in an interview, Bancroft has hinted slyly that the bowlers had knowledge of the activities as well. This brings in the question of somebody taking responsibility and stopping the scandal from happening in the first place. But if it is accurate, and the bowlers took advantage of a tampered ball, it could be believable since they are the ones who actually benefit from this the most.

However, in events that followed, all four bowlers, Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazelwood, and Mitchel Starc, have put out a joint statement negating any such claims. The question still remains that how could the bowlers not know when the ball started doing tricks out of nowhere. Regardless, even captain Tim Paine has said in a subsequent interview that the bowlers and Bancroft have resolved the issue between them.

“We do not pick too many Test teams on what they say in the media; we pick Test teams on guys scoring runs and Bangas had a really good Shield year again. Something he has done in England the last few days will not be carried against him. We are all grown men; those guys have made contact with each other and sorted it out”

Tim Paine

Cricket Australia has also announced that Bancroft has no new information to offer to the cricket board for further investigation. The cricket world has been lit up by the murmurs of this incident as it was a big deal. It involved two of the most prominent players of that time being suspended and lose one full year of their careers. Many say that this is Bancroft’s way of being sour because he will never be considered for the test team again, but captain Paine has said that cricketers are not judged on their chatter in media, but their performances are what their selection is based on.