Bancroft in happier place as return nears
Cameron Bancroft has been working hard on and off the field and is ready to emerge from his suspension as a more mature player
Andrew Ramsey at Perth Stadium
16 December 2018, 07:40 PM AEST
After almost nine months of dark days and deep introspection, Cameron Bancroft is smiling once more.
It's a fortnight until Bancroft returns to top-flight cricket, the ban he copped for his part in the ball-tampering scandal lifted in time for the 26-year-old to take his place in Perth Scorchers' line-up for their opening KFC Big Bash League fixture in Launceston on December 30.
And with every passing day, as his exile from the game that's been his life until his life was turned upside down slowly reduced, his mood has lightened in line with his burden.
"As each day in December passes, he's smiling broader and broader," Christina Matthews, the Western Australia Cricket Association Chief Executive who has been so closely charting Bancroft's path back, said today.
Bancroft had a taste of life back in the spotlight this morning, alongside Australia men's team coach Justin Langer ahead of day three of the second Domain Series Test against India, although not in the guise he would have preferred.
Rather than being involved in the on-field battle, Bancroft was a guest panelist with Langer at the WACA's Curator's Breakfast corporate function, where he fielded questions and pressed flesh.
But Matthews holds confidence that her young charge will resume an interrupted career with greater insights and a stronger will than he took with him to South Africa, where his fledgling international tenure was abruptly, though temporarily, ended.
She believes that he's experienced an "easier road" than his former teammates Steve Smith and David Warner who both copped 12-month suspensions, partly because Bancroft chose not to pursue playing opportunities outside Australia.
Instead, and in line with his ongoing contractual obligations, Bancroft has undertaken twice the amount of community engagement work as per the conditions of his suspension, as well as taking on captaincy commitments with his Perth Premier Cricket club, Willetton.
"It was exciting last week when I could write to Cricket Australia and let them know Cameron had completed his community hours," Matthews told radio station SEN prior to play resuming in the second Test this morning.
"He had to do 100 (hours), he did at least double that (and) he wasn't concerned about how much he did because when he started doing it, he realised how much he had to give and how much he learned from working with people in environments that he never (experienced).
"We didn't want it to be a ticking-the-box exercise, to do 100 hours at a junior club and there you go.
"We wanted it to be a learning experience for him and, to be fair to him, he wanted it to be a productive experience as well."
Among the activities in which Bancroft has involved himself is work with one of Langer's favoured charities – the Broome-based Kyle Andrews Foundation – as well as with children battling cancer, students in disadvantaged communities, and cricketers with disabilities.
While Smith and Warner have looked to maintain their skills and competitive edge by playing T20 competitions in Canada, the Caribbean and Bangladesh in addition to club matches in Sydney, Bancroft has restricted himself to the Northern Territory Strike League in Darwin, and Premier Cricket in Perth.
Where the right-hander has averaged almost 50 since the season began last October, with a top-score of 154 a month ago.
But for all he has seen and learned during his eight and a half months on the periphery, and the diligent work he's done to make good his lapse in judgement, Matthews concedes Bancroft will forever carry the metaphorical bruise inflicted by events at Cape Town.
"I think he was widely seen as a perpetrator in the whole thing, but he was naive and desperate to belong, and so he was caught in a position of ‘what do I do?'," Matthews said today.
"And I think that's the real indictment, that when your captain kind of knows what's going on and doesn't stop it, and your vice-captain's involved, you go ‘well, where do I go?'.
"Now he says, and we have said the whole time, his responsibility was to say ‘no', but for whatever reason he felt that he couldn't.
"He's done everything he can since then to take responsibility and make the most if it, so I think he's learned a lot about himself and what he stands for .
"He'll forever be – I don't know if embarrassed is the right word – but he'll forever have to live with it, no matter how good his career is, or how bad his career is.
"But there's no doubt he'll bounce back."
Matthews also cited the taint caused by the sandpaper scandal as a reason why the first few days of the second Test at Perth's new stadium had failed to attract crowds well in excess of 20,000.
She claimed the incident had cast a shadow across all of Australia cricket, which was most noticeable in attendances at matches involving the national men's teams but was having minimal impact on support for WBBL and upcoming BBL fixtures.
A combination of the South Africa scandal and the recently released review into CA's on-field and corporate culture – which found the organisation exhibited "arrogant" and "controlling" characteristics – had undoubtedly influenced public perception, she said.
"I don't necessarily think it's the (men's) team, it's Australian cricket as an entity is on the nose," Matthews said.
"A little bit of trust has been lost, … what happened in South Africa was kind of an insult to everybody and how they think about the game.
"We follow that up a few months later with the culture review, and let's say the lack of foresight on Cricket Australia's part to see how the public were going to react to that.
"It was obvious that the (men's) team's culture had been waning, and there's evidence now to suggest that, in surveys that have been done and probably haven't seen the light of day."
Cricket Australia's newly installed Chief Executive Officer Kevin Roberts has also acknowledged that administrators and players face a challenge to re-connect with fans in the wake of the sandpaper scandal, which caused significant reputational damage.
Roberts echoed Matthews view that CA has undergone widespread changes in recent months, including the installation of a new CEO (a position for which Matthews was an applicant) and board chair, and was acutely conscious of the challenges they face.
"There's no doubt we need to be a more humble and a more respectful organisation in everything we do," Roberts said recently.
"And if some people have viewed that approach as arrogance, then I'm not going to challenge that view.
"What I am going to do is be open to people's views, and work with them to understand what does it mean for them to be dealing with a more humble and respectful organisation, and make sure we deliver that."
Domain Test Series v India
Dec 14-18: Second Test, Perth Stadium
Dec 26-30: Third Test, MCG
Jan 3-7: Fourth Test, SCG
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c, wk), Josh Hazlewood (vc), Mitch Marsh (vc), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Chris Tremain
India squad: Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (wk), Parthiv Patel (wk), Ravi Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar