Cameron Bancroft details what happened in the Cape Town Test match, why he used sandpaper on the ball and his journey back from suspension in a tell-all interview with Adam Gilchrist
Bancroft interview: The full transcript
Adam Gilchrist: You're just a few days away from being back into full cricket and eligible for selection for Australia. How are you feeling?
Cameron Bancroft: Yeah. Pretty excited to be honest. It's been a pretty long nine months. There's been times where it's gone really, really quickly and been times where, you know, it's felt long, it's felt like it's going to take a bit of time. The thing is, certainly the first few months got out of the way it became really, really positive. And, you know, there was even an almost sense of timelessness with it all. I was, there was a lot of enjoyment there. But cricket, it's the thing on the horizon now and I'm really looking forward to it.
AG: You mentioned 'positive'. We were mentioning back and forward, did a couple of training sessions down at the gym we go to. Any contact I had with you, particularly at the early stage, I was amazed at how positive you were. Did you make a conscious effort to be that positive?
CB: I think I've always been pretty optimistic, even in times where, you know, it's felt hard. Cricket is a good example I guess, times where your form is really struggling, or you feel like you're not sure where your next run is going to come from. There's a part of you that just wants to keep showing up because there's some faith or some hope that round the corner there will be something really, really positive. I know in my life even to that point that the times where I had battled, the times I had felt moments of hardship, if I stuck at it long enough would change. I guess that's what uncertainty is about and that's certainly something I had to embrace through this whole journey.
AG: Let's go back to where this journey started. Can you recall the lead up to Cape Town? Did the team feel under pressure to win? Did you feel any vulnerability to your spot in the team?
CB: I think after the Ashes particularly, we obviously played some really good cricket – I remember even in my first Test just the intensity out in the middle had probably risen 50 per cent to what I would feel in a Shield game. It obviously feels like Test cricket is a huge deal – you obviously know it's a big deal, you see it – but to then sense and feel what it's like was a completely different experience.
AG: The intensity of Test cricket surprised you somewhat. What about the team environment, what about on the day all these events transpired? Can you take us in to the mood and the events of what lead up to that unfortunate situation?
CB: Yeah, I think always in cricket and in the changerooms, even in the games prior that game in Cape Town, it's about key moments in the game isn't it, and identifying those key moments and what you can control and can't control. And, you know, using sandpaper on a cricket ball was certainly, you know, out of the spirit of the game. But I guess a part of that is you're trying to take control of a particular part of a game. I can remember on day three that day was pretty dark, pretty gloomy, overcast, it was a bit wet, and I think that was a big part of the reasons that led to, for me to make a really poor decision.
AG: Why did you make that decision?
CB: 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 enquired 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.
AG: And what's that problem?
CB: The problem was, I would've gone to bed, and I would've felt like I'd let everybody down. I would've felt like I'd let the team down, like I'd hurt our chances to win the game of cricket. And if you actually look at both scenarios, they're both related to this idea that all I wanted to do was feel, I guess, a sense of value. And if this is Cameron being really true to himself, and if this is Cameron valuing these other things, you can understand how they're actually not the same thing. So moving forward from that, this whole notion of being true to myself, that's been probably the part of me that I've had to really enquire deep within me, and to be able to understand that these things I value, which I'd probably been actually doing for years in my cricket career, without actually realising the effect it was having on me. Pretty powerful stuff, for me anyway.
AG: Were you asked to do it?
CB: The interesting thing was, at the time, yeah, definitely, I was asked to do it. I guess I just didn't know how to be true to myself in that moment. So, I didn't actually know any better. I didn't know any better because I had no prior experience to kind of go – of course, the act of using sandpaper on a cricket ball is wrong, but when you combine with that this value to fit in and to feel valued, to earn respect, I guess this culture, acceptance, this part of culture that people crave, and certainly something that I craved, you can understand how they don't fit together, those ideas. As a professional sportsman you have a bit of an ego, you have a bit of an attachment to this identity of who you think you are, so to feel what I felt, to be able to fall down, and absolutely crash and burn sort of thing … I take no other responsibility but the responsibility I have on myself and my own actions, because I am not a victim – I had a choice, and I made a massive mistake. And that's what's in my control.
AG: Who was it who asked you to do it?
CB: At the time, Dave (Warner) suggested to me to carry the action out on the ball, given the situation we were in the game. I didn't know any better. I didn't know any better because I just wanted to fit in and feel valued, really. Simple as that.
AG: What was going through your mind when Peter Handscomb ran out? Trouble?
CB: I think I felt trouble probably way before then. When the picture of me was up on the big screen TV. There's no hiding when you're in that moment, is there. You're completely vulnerable, completely in the open. Pete's got a smile on his face there probably because he's trying to be as light-hearted as he can.
AG: What was the message?
CB: I honestly cannot remember. I was in a pretty dark place by that point I think. I knew that, yeah, I knew that I wasn't good.
AG: And then the day plays out, you end up in the change rooms, the umpires come to you, do you remember what their conversation was?
CB: I actually went in and apologised to the umpires, and I just said, look, I’m really sorry for carrying this out in the game, I’m really ashamed of the actions in itself and it won’t happen again. That’s something that I wanted to do for the game and for, the making up for the mistake – I’m not making up for it, really am I? But I am being accountable for what I did and that was exactly the most important thing for me.
AG: And in that change room at the end of the day’s play, there was obviously a decision, we need to front the press, like what you did, you went a fronted the umpires. Who was making the decisions around that and then what you went and presented to the press?
CB: I think, in hindsight, the thing that I was actually proud of in that moment was the fact that Steve and I wanted to be accountable and I guess, really honest about our actions. And there was obviously a lot of opinion about why did that happen straight away? Why didn’t you wait until the next day but I think, as well we probably didn’t anticipate the extremities to which it was going to be reacted on by the public and the media, social media, all this sort of stuff. Certainly, in myself that was something I felt really strongly about, something I know Steve felt really strongly about as captain.
AG: Just on that, you weren’t sure how wide-ranging this was going to be, is that what led you to say in the press that it was the tape instead of (sandpaper), with a bit of dirt on it?
CB: That’s actually really interesting that, because I obviously, … I lied about it, which is the truth, but for me, the whole issue I felt got forgotten about. The issue was actually the fact that I went out with an intentional decision to tamper the ball and I felt like that was forgotten a little bit because people cared what I used on the ball more than the actual reason behind why I was using it. Which I found really, really fascinating and I wasn’t sure if, maybe in society there’s a connection between, I don’t know, just the truth I guess, but the whole 'why' was the same. The 'why' didn’t change but I guess that really hurt people which was a mistake that I made. I guess I went around in a circle and there was a moment where I was able to rectify that and be honest about that, but it was a really fascinating moment in that, those few days before I came back and did my press conference in Perth.
AG: And you’re right, you didn’t shy away eventually from the truth, it was a challenging time and the fact that you’re here today and happy to talk about it shows you’re staring it in the eye and want to take it on. The penalty. Anger? Frustration? It must be frustrating looking around world cricket and you hear everyone say everyone is doing it, and we’ve seen multiple offenders, some individuals who’ve offended multiple times get hit with a feather. Has that been hard to take?
CB: Yeah it has. I’ll be honest it has a little bit.
AG: But you didn’t appeal, which I think went a long way in the public seeing the signs that you were prepared to take it on.
CB: I think it was just so hard I guess, it was a time where people really valued as well, how we were perceived and how we were talked about but then at the same time you’re also trying to balance out your accountability for your wrongdoing and your mistake, and where’s the middle ground that lies between the mistake you make, the penalty and also, yeah, the punishment that eventuates from that. I don’t know where we sit on that, I feel like it obviously is going to raise a lot of issues if other players make mistakes as well which is inevitable because we’re not perfect are we? But in this case, for me, it was a nine-month ban and I felt like I had a choice to lay in my own suffering or I had a choice to get up and start again. The politics and stuff, that was completely out of my control, of course it affected me, definitely emotionally, that was something I was able to compartmentalise and move past pretty quickly.
AG: In your press conference when you returned, very raw, open, honest, you said you’ve got to set about the first step outside of those doors after the press conference, you’re on the road to redemption and looking for respect, do you feel like you’ve got that from the public?
CB: I think I had to actually forget about the public for a while because the public wasn’t who I was, I was who I am, I had to learn and see and discover my true value, I had to learn to forgive myself first before I could forgive other people.
AG: That was my next question, you asked for forgiveness and I think the cricketing public will do if they haven’t already, I’m sure they have, was there a point in time where you were able to forgive yourself?
CB: Definitely. I can’t even think like it was a moment where it was like yeah, bang, I forgive myself, but I think it was just time that allowed that to happen. I can remember getting to a stage where, it happens, and I post something on social media and there’s people out there who are forever going to look at me and say ‘he’s a cheat, he’s the guy that cheated, he’s a cheater’ and point the finger and be really, really serious about it, I know there’s going to be people like that forever and I think this idea of forgiveness came to me when a comment was made about that and I didn’t feel anger, I felt serious compassion. Serious compassion. Almost like a sense of love and openness. Because I didn't hold onto whatever that was. I had respect for it. 'Respect the past', that's like one our values that we hold at the WACA. But, it made me have compassion for someone to kind of go, you know what, like, my mistake probably triggered a lot of stuff in their life. You know, like, when we see other people make mistakes, other people make wrongdoings, I almost feel like the reasons why they emotionally kind of connect with us is because we've got something in our own life that actually we're not proud of. Maybe it hurts us because we've actually done that in some way ourselves. And to kind of see that represented like that, or whatever, it's reality to ourselves. And yeah, I can remember feeling that for some person that made a comment like that, and I thought, 'you know, I'm actually going to be ok. I'm actually going to be ok'. That was a pretty free sort of feeling to hold onto yeah.
AG: You look to me like you have sincerely looked in the mirror, and you look relaxed and at peace with it. You've identified the error and you've moved on. What's allowed you to get to this space?
CB: Lots of things, really. I've been able to do some amazing things over the last nine months. One thing I didn't want this to be was just a box-ticking exercise just to please people. Like, be given community service hours and do them for the sake of doing them.
AG: On that, 100 you had to do, I've been told you've done upwards of 200 hours?
CB: Yeah, I didn't care about what the hours looked like. If I had to do 700 hours, I did 700 hours, because I was putting 700 hours into something that was, you know, I was giving to something that was greater than myself. That was kind of my attitude to it all.
AG: What sort of things?
CB: So Justin Langer is patron for a foundation called The Kyle Andrews Foundation up in Broome. And he gave me an opportunity to go up there – he usually goes up there every year but obviously due to his commitments he wasn't able to be there but that was just like a really beautiful start to the journey. Up until then it was really, really simple, you know. It was about getting up at the same time each day, you know, going to the gym to train, you know, eating healthy. It was honestly as simple as that. And that experience really touched me because I realised I was sitting in this own suffering inside myself and there were people that were fighting a battle greater than I knew. And to be able to connect, to feel, to touch that with those kids, was pretty special to me.
AG: The cricketing public have seen the way you've looked this in the face, you've shown your remorse and your preparedness to move on from it. I think they and I wish you all the very best.
CB: Thanks Gilly, thank you very much.
The full interview between Cameron Bancroft and Adam Gilchrist can be viewed on streaming service Kayo. Full details at watch.cricket.com.au