The Aussie ball tampering rebounds on Somerset Cricket while Matt Maynard takes a dig…..

3rd May 2018

First published on the previous version of this blog before it was updated. Wanted to add it as it shows how far Somerset have come in a month.
Just as Somerset’s pre-season had beaten the dreadful March weather and belatedly got underway against Worcestershire at The CACG last week and basking in the glow of a Championship nod in our direction from Ryan Sidebottom on BBC 5 Live I was feeling good about the upcoming season.
After all everything seemed to be falling into place. Craig Overton’s confidence got another boost contributing over half England’s first innings runs in the Auckland Test. Jack Leach is with the England test squad at long last. Dom Bess is coming off the back of some strong performances in the North v South series in the West Indies. Jamie Overton is looking good and promising much for the season to come. And Hildy produced a by-all-accounts sumptuous 93 in his first knock of the season in that Hildylicious way only he can.
The departure of the short-tenured Cheif Executive seemed to have been a mere blip. Something a club as well led and run as Somerset could deal with. Even Matt Maynard’s dig at the parting chief executive in Friday’s Cricket Paper didn’t bother me that much.
And then my psyche kicked in. On Friday evening. It’s all going too well. Something has to go wrong soon. I can’t help it. I’m old enough to have started watching Somerset in the bleak BC (before Close) years, son of a father who loyally followed the county through the trough of the post-war years. Even having seen Somerset break their trophy doubt first hand those all too many second places have reinvigorated my inbuilt SCCC pessimism.
So when the news from Cape Town broke on Saturday afternoon as I was settling down to watch the boat races it wasn’t a case of being surprised that Cameron Bancroft was the culprit caught on camera more of a “well that was inevitable wasn’t it”.
I have written this blog post numerous times in my head in the last few days and re-written it and re-written it again such has been the changing nature of the story. But now, with the Australian Cricket Board’s decision affecting Somerset’s (former?) overseas player announced it is time to reflect.
Bancroft has been suspended ‘from all international and domestic cricket’ for 9 months. At least that takes the decision out of Somerset’s hands. With just over 2 weeks to the start of their Championship campaign, Somerset’s top order is subject to a great deal of uncertainty. The next week is probably going to be as important as any session in the Championship it is just a case of keeping fingers crossed that a replacement can be found. A tall order but where there is hope….
But while the phone lines from Taunton will be buzzing with outgoing calls and we await the outcome it is important to reflect on the whole sorry tale.
The Australian cricket team has been in a state of moral decline since Michael Clarke and Darren Lehman took over. It seems that in the last year it has got worse to a degree that the team is out of control. There is a degree of arrogance in any successful sports team. A necessary arrogance that is part of a winning mentality.
But the behaviour that has been emanating from under the baggy green has gone too far. I suspect Lehman realised during the Ashes that he had lost a degree of control and was unable/unwilling to get it back. Maybe he felt unable to deal with it. More likely unwilling. Tolerance of behaviours in a winning team by coaches (United in the Ferguson / Keane era and the Yankees in the Torre / Jeter era being two prime examples) tends to ignore the unpalatable.
There is no doubt, absolutely no doubt, that the culture in the Australian dressing room has been influenced by David Warner. There is no need here to restate where Warner stands in the eyes of his peers, fans and the wider public. Assuming what we are aware of is only the tip of the iceberg and that those behaviours have been replicated inside the dressing room it isn’t a huge leap to argue that bullying of the new members of the team has been rife.
So let’s hypothesise. Warner hatches a plan during the morning session and singles out rookie Bancroft as the easiest target. During the lunch interval, he manages to get Bancroft away from his teammates and tells him what he wants him to do. Bancroft, feeling the pressure, misguidedly agrees to do Warner’s bidding.
So far so believable. But here’s the thing, it is hard for any of us who have been in a dressing room environment, that no one else suspected anything was amiss. Smith claims he spoke to Warner and Bancroft as they went back out after lunch and said he didn’t want to know. Either a willful abdication of his responsibility as captain or more likely the actions of a man who was the leader in name only, intimidated by his aggressive and intimidating vice-captain.
The farcical nature of the whole episode takes a further turn when you consider they believed the all-seeing TV cameras wouldn’t see what Bancroft was doing. Arrogance beyond belief?
But surely the bowlers must have suspected something. I’ve not met a bowler at any level of cricket worthy of the name who not only invested a huge amount of energy in keeping the ball in the best condition possible but was able to spot a change in the state of the ball, however small.
In summary, I don’t believe that the wrong-doing was attributable to just the Cape Town Three. I’m convinced the majority of the Aussies knew about the plan and were complicit in it. I’m even more convinced that the coach was aware of it and frankly find his walkie-talkie conversation which the ACB says exonerates him risible.
None of this is aimed to exonerate Bancroft or try to dilute his guilt. I’ve got no loyalty to the guy and have no wish to see him in the maroon and black at this moment. But we, the cricketing public, need to ensure the full story comes out. Respected journalists like Agnew and Maxwell need to ensure the story is not allowed to go away until the truth is known in full.
In the meantime, Somerset fans would do well to remember that we are lucky to have an incredibly well-run club with a strong reputation. Surely it’s a good thing that our 2018 season doesn’t drag the entrails of the events of Cape Town around the county circuit with them all year. We would also do well to remember that we have been lucky enough to have had the Wyvern worn by some wonderful Australian cricketers. Let’s hope Justin Langer and Chris Rogers are on the other end of the phone lines from the County Ground with some positive news.

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