What was Cameron Bancroft trying to fit into?

Transcripts of unscripted speech do favours to very few people. The vast majority of us can be made to look silly with a word-for-word written presentation of our attempts to explain something off the cuff, especially if it’s complicated and/or emotional. And especially if it necessarily includes some compromising of the truth.

So try to ignore the fact that ball-tamperer Cameron Bancroft looks like a gibbering buffoon in the transcript of his recent interview with Adam Gilchrist. (He actually sounded like one, too, but never mind.) Forget the fact that he contradicts himself repeatedly and leaves far more questions unanswered than he answers. Gilchrist, one of the game’s most famous ‘good guys’, lets him off the hook every time.

There is one aspect of what Bancroft says, however, which just won’t go away. Most people are trying to move on from the Newlands ball-tampering thing but the Aussies will continue to dig themselves further into a hole the more they talk about it because it’s tricky coordinating lies and half truths amongst such a large group of people. As Judge Edwin ‘Sharky’ King said to Hansie Cronje at the start of the King Inquiry into match faxing, “The truth will set you free.”

As I said, most of Bancroft’s answers will leave you shaking your head in bewilderment, but here’s the one I can’t get out of my head. Gilchrist asks him why he made the decision to agree with David Warner’s request to sandpaper the ball:

“Yeah. I, for me, the decision was based around my values, what I valued at the time. And I valued fitting in. I valued fitting in and I guess with fitting in you hope that fitting in earns you respect and, you know, with that there came a really big cost, you know, for the mistake. At the time did I know any better? No. Because I valued this thing called fitting in, fitting in with the team. Fitting in with my mates, earning respect from, you know, senior players and, I guess, umm … yeah, it led to a really destructive situation. Emotionally, personally, and I lost cricket for that period of time.

But the really, really interesting thing that I’ve come to myself about the ‘why’ sort of thing – and I’ve asked myself this question a lot – if I had said ‘no’, if I had said ‘no’, what would that have meant? And the thing that I’ve inquired and thought about so often myself is if I had said no, and I went to bed that night, I had the exact same problem. I had the same problem that I had using the sandpaper on the cricket ball.”

Some things to remember: Nobody else in the team had any idea what was about to transpire. The bowlers had absolutely no idea that ball may been interfered with, either at Newlands or anywhere else. It had never happened before “to the best of my knowledge” according to captain Steve Smith and then Cricket Australia chief executive, James Sutherland.

So, there was no knowledge of ball-tampering in the team – let alone a ‘culture’ of doing it. Yet Cameron Bancroft was so desperate to “fit in” that he was prepared to risk his career doing it. So desperate to “fit in” that he would have had difficulty in sleeping at night if he had said ‘no’.

Smith saw what was happening (for the first time) and chose to ignore it. So it really was only David Warner, then, who knew anything about ball-tampering and who persuaded Bancroft to take the sandpaper. Yet Bancroft felt he would be “fitting in” by cheating. Odd, isn’t it?

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