The Sandpaper Gate controversy has come to the fore once again after a recent interview by Cameron Bancroft, where the Australian batsman claimed that the bowlers could have known about the ball being tampered with. After a lot being spoken by the media and former Australia cricketers, the bowling quartet of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon issued a statement, absolving themselves from the fiasco.
But former South Africa bowler Fanie de Villiers is of the opinion that the entire team would have known about the plan. The latter was commentating during the Newlands game in 2018, and claims to have seen first-hand what unfolded then. He went on to say that it was him who alerted the TV crew who caught Bancroft using sandpaper on the ball.
But the bowling quartet claims, “We did not know a foreign substance was taken onto the field to alter the condition of the ball until we saw the images on the big screen at Newlands,” as put out by cricket.com.au.
“It’s absolutely impossible for bowlers not to know what’s going on the ball, because you are the person that scrutinises it, you are the person that’s looking at it, you are the person that’s cleaning it, you are the person that knows exactly that one side looks this way because of looking after (the ball) and the other side doesn’t look a specific way because of the grass on the wicket. So it’s absolutely nonsense,” de Villiers told the Indian Express.
“I think from start it was obvious that they knew, and from start, the Australian system didn’t handle it properly. They should have handled it differently, and they tried to cover everything by just making two (three actually) people the culprits. It was a combined effort… The coach knew; everybody knows in a system, because you don’t hide these things in the team firstly, and secondly, it’s impossible for a bowler not to know because he can see the difference.”
On the day incident took place, de Villiers recalls what propelled him to alert the crew. “The ball reverses early because of the (barren) wicket. If the wicket has got grass on, the ball reverses late; in the 40th-50th over, if at all. So the scuffing of the ball – it was a grassy pitch – and you don’t get the ball reversing after 20-odd overs. It doesn’t happen in South Africa. That prompted me (to alert the TV cameramen),” de Villiers explained.
After all these developments, Cricket Australia says it is ready to investigate the entire issue. On this, De Villiers says, “I think they have been advised to say what they said, just to take as much of the pressure away from the situation. I don’t think it should be dragged open. I think people did get a warning, everybody around the world got a proper warning through this, and it’s done and dusted. I don’t think it should be opened up again. I don’t think it’s fair on the players, but the Australian system didn’t handle it right. They did know but they decided that two (three) players were going to take the brunt of it.”