Qantas Tour of South Africa
Ball-tampering vision 'made me feel sick'
Pat Cummins shares a revealing insight into team mentality amid Cape Town scandal
24 May 2018, 09:09 PM AEST
Pat Cummins said he 'felt sick in his stomach' when he saw the incriminating footage of Test teammate Cameron Bancroft on the Newlands big screen as Australia's ball-tampering scandal unfolded.
The fast bowler has opened up for the first time on events in the Cape Town Test, offering insight into the team's reaction and how the players were caught out by the public outcry that followed.
Cummins had just finished a five-over spell during which he took the wicket of Hashim Amla when footage of Bancroft was first shown on the Newlands big screen during day three of the Cape Town Test match in March.
"I remember seeing what happened up on the big screen and just getting a sick feeling in my stomach and just thought, 'Oh no, what's going on here? What's going to happen?'," Cummins told cricket.com.au.
"At the time, I thought this event that's just happened, it does have precedent around the world, it has happened a few times before.
"Never in Australia, but you kind of know what happens – an ICC sanction gets handed down."
Cummins said the team's thoughts switched to "We'll worry about it after the game, just get through today" as they battled in a pivotal third Test with the series tied 1-1.
"The Cape Town Test was really good the first two days," Cummins said.
"It was good, hard cricket and it was a pretty even contest. It's a great ground, Newlands. The pitch was good, it felt like a really good game.
"Then from day three onwards it was such a different match."
Bancroft and Australia captain Steve Smith admitted after play on day three to the pre-meditated plan to scuff the ball. At the time, Bancroft said he had used dirt from the pitch on some sticky tape to rough up the ball.
The next morning, Smith was replaced as team captain, with Tim Paine handed the captaincy for the remainder of the Test, and realisation of the severity of the incident started to sink in for the players.
"You know it's big news but don't really know the magnitude," Cummins said. "Then the next morning when I woke up and checked my phone, that's when it hit me. That's when the reaction was unprecedented. We'd never seen anything like it before.
"It really took us out of the bubble about being on tour.
"I mean, we had the Prime Minister on the news giving his opinion on the situation, and ex-players and politicians, movie stars, and everyone.
"We just thought, 'Hang on, we're just cricketers playing a little cricket game over here in Cape Town' and suddenly this has just blown up all around the world.
"Suddenly everyone at home, who's maybe not even following the cricket or mates who don't watch that much cricket, are checking in going, 'Mate, hope you're OK'.
"That's when the magnitude hit me and from there I just remember a really awful week ... just a really tough week, especially on the three guys that put their hand up.
"I really felt for them and everyone trying to look after each other for that week, it was a pretty dark place."
Australia lost the Cape Town Test by 322 runs before the ICC banned Smith for a single Test and fined Bancroft. Cricket Australia launched its own investigation that revealed the use of sandpaper, exposed Warner's involvement in orchestrating the plan, and implicated Smith for not showing the leadership expected of an Australian captain to snuff it out.
Warner and Smith were banned from international and domestic cricket for 12 months, Bancroft nine months. All three were sent home. Smith will serve a further 12-month ban from captaincy positions, while Warner will never again hold a leadership role in Australian cricket.
Australia coach Darren Lehmann resigned from his post in the wake of the scandal, and Cummins' return to Johannesburg, where he had made such a memorable Test debut seven years earlier, was completely overshadowed.
"This time in Johannesburg was such a different feeling coming off a pretty horrible week, to be honest," Cummins said.
"We were trying to get our heads around just what happened but also thinking, 'We've got a Test to play this week'.
"It was a new captain, and other than Nathan Lyon who's played 80-odd games, hardly anyone in the team had played more than 20 or 30 Tests. And we had three guys fly over a day before the game.
"It just felt like a really new team. We were missing a couple of the stalwarts from the team, we didn't have a heap of experience, it was Darren Lehmann's last game and we were just trying to get our head around trying to get through this Test match, put up a really good effort and come out the other side.
"I just remember it being a really, really draining game. Just all the emotion happening off the field, then on it we spent about four-and-a-half days on the field."
Australia lost that fourth Test by 492 runs, and with it the series 3-1.
Paine was subsequently appointed the Test captain on a full-time basis, and named ODI skipper. Justin Langer was made the new head coach, and Australia will return to the field next month in England where they will play five ODIs and a T20.
Cummins and Paine were the only current Test players named to a panel chaired by former Test batsman Rick McCosker, which has been tasked to set out a new behaviour charter for players.