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Comment: Bancroft is the scapegoat
"I lied. I lied about the tape. I was panicked in this situation and I'm very sorry. I feel like I've let everyone down in Australia." Those were the words of the suspended Australian batsman Cameron Bancroft on Thursday, when the story of the manipulated balls had picked up speed. The 25-year-old had little choice but to admit his guilt. But it wasn't him who pulled his country down. Rather, it was those who put him in this position: namely Steve Smith, David Warner and Darren Lehmann.
Smith and Warner, captain and vice-captain, have received twelve-month bans from the International Cricket Federation for their involvement in the ball manipulation in the third Test against South Africa, while Bancroft got off with his nine-month suspension for that . It's a hard-to-suppress feeling that this discrepancy is a tacit admission that Bancroft was placed in a completely hopeless position - despite the fact that he was the man who actually rigged the ball.
The Cape Town game was only his eighth Test (Smith and Warner played 64 and 72 tests respectively). And it seems as if he was asked by the so-called "leadership" (which now consists of two people, without coach Lehmann) whether he could do the dirty work.
With an average of 30.92 points, his place in the team was already uncertain. That made it difficult, perhaps even impossible, for Bancroft to say no. And acting against the instructions of your bosses would have taken a lot of courage. Too much courage for such a young man. On Thursday in Perth, Bancroft realized that this mistake of not defying the instructions of his superiors could have dire consequences for his sporting future.
Cultural weaknesses led to this point
"The thing that breaks my heart is that I haven't sacrificed my place on the team for anything," he said. "People know I worked so hard to get to this career point. And to have thrown that opportunity away now is devastating."
There is no doubt that the careers and bottom line of Smith and Warner will suffer as well. But there is little doubt that the two best batsmen will return - even if only in the shortest cricket version, the "Twenty 20", which has no international sporting relevance, but which gives the players a lot more money than with regular cricket.
Cricketer Steve Smith (l.) And David Warner
Bancroft is a scapegoat, Unter Lehmann, Smith and Warner have crept into the Australian national cricket team with morally questionable morals. After all, the Australian Association has issued severe penalties. Smith, Warner and Bancroft will not be available to the national team for at least eight games and will only be able to come back shortly before the 2019 World Cup.
While this incident is unpleasant, it is by no means the first in which top cricketers have attempted to manipulate balls. In 2013, for example, the South African Faf du Plessis was caught trying to poke a ball with his zipper. The first player to be banned internationally for manipulating a ball was Pakistani Waqar Younis in 2000.
The fact that the penalties for the same offense were so inconsistent may be due to the fact that it was not the International Cricket Association (ICC) that made the decision, but rather the individual national associations. With all the justified criticism, Bancroft in particular deserves a little sympathy.
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