‘Australia were out of control before scandal’

London: Australian cricketers had gone “out of control” and turned “pretty average people” two-three years before the ball-tampering scandal, says former ICC Elite Panel umpire Ian Gould, who was the TV official in the infamous Cape Town Test of 2018.

Gould, who retired after last year’s World Cup, relayed what had been spotted on the TV — Cameron Bancroft putting sandpaper down his trousers — to the on-field umpires.

“If you look back on it now, Australia were out of control probably two years, maybe three years, before that, but not in this sense. Maybe – behavioural, chatty, being pretty average people,” Gould told the ‘Daily Telegraph’ while promoting his autobiography ‘Gunner – My Life in Cricket’. The fallout of the Newlands Test was huge.

Then captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner were slapped with a one-year international ban while Bancroft was suspended for nine months by Cricket Australia for their role in the scandal. It also prompted a cultural review into Australian cricket. “… I didn’t realise what the repercussions would be,” Gould said.

“But when it came into my earpiece I didn’t think the prime minister of Australia was going to come tumbling down on these three guys. All I thought was – Jesus, how do I put this out to the guys on the field without making it an overreaction.

“It was a bit like on Mastermind when the light is on top of you and you’re going – oh dear, how do I talk through this?” Ball-tampering was classed as a level two offence under the ICC Code of Conduct, but it has since been elevated to a level three category, which carries a ban of up to six Tests or 12 ODIs. Gould admitted he couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing on TV, but said what came out of it was good for the game, especially Australian cricket.

“When the director said, ‘He’s put something down the front of his trousers,’ I started giggling, because that didn’t sound quite right. Obviously, what’s come from it is for the betterment of Australian cricket – and cricket generally,” he observed. Gould said that he still has the balls that were used in the Newlands Test.

“If you saw the balls, you would get it completely wrong. At the end of the day, the sandpaper didn’t get on that ball. “They were working to get the ball to be pristine. Once they’d got one side bigger and shinier, that’s when the sandpaper was coming in.”