27 Mar 2019

Cricket: Ball tampering may have been happening long before Cape Town

10:50 am on 27 March 2019

Ball-tampering may have been going on long before Cameron Bancroft was caught with sandpaper during the Cape Town Test against South Africa last year concedes former Australia skipper Mark Taylor.

At the time Steve Smith was asked if Cape Town was the first time Australia had attempted to change the condition of the ball, and the skipper was adamant that it had not occurred previously.

"I can promise you this is the first time it's happened," Smith said.

But doubt surrounds that assertion, with Taylor telling Nine Wide World of Sports that Cricket Australia's review, headed by then-Head of Integrity Iain Roy, only focused on one particular incident.

The former skipper, who was a Cricket Australia board member at the time, took part in a discussion with fellow Nine commentators Ian Chappell and Ian Healy to mark the first anniversary of the ball-tampering scandal.

Taylor, who captained Australia from 1994-1999, says the focus of the review was only on what happened in Cape Town.

Mark Taylor

Mark Taylor Photo: Photosport Ltd 2016 www.photosport.nz

"There was no probe into finding out how long it had been going on for," Taylor told Wide World of Sports.

"Was this the first time? There's no doubt this 'ball management' has been going on for a long time, and I dare say every country is either doing it or working out how to do it, but there's a line somewhere between ball management and ball tampering.

"The grey area in all of this is how much of this ball management in the past was tampering and went unnoticed."

Roy's review resulted in 12 month suspensions for Smith and vice-captain David Warner, while Bancroft was outed for nine months.

All three players accepted the sanctions handed down, without the need for a hearing.

Any contention that the review could have delved more deeply was backed up by Chappell.

"That probe was pretty specific and it almost sounded to me like they were after Warner anyhow," Chappell told Wide World of Sports.

Balls during Day1 of the Second International Cricket Test match, New Zealand V England, Hagley Oval, Christchurch, New Zealand, 30th March 2018.Copyright photo: John Davidson / www.photosport.nz

Photo: Photosport

"If it was going to be a proper probe it would have been far more wide-reaching."

Healy is in no doubt that Cape Town wasn't the first time the team had tampered with the ball, and believes a more thorough enquiry would have resulted in more players coming under the microscope.

"They'd certainly been doing it for some time," Healy told Wide World of Sports.

"A lot of them got lucky in an enquiry that was very specific to this incident."

According to Taylor, the obsession with reverse swing was at the root of the troubles.

"One of the reasons I think Australia fell into trouble in South Africa last year is because they got so fixated on reverse swing," he said.

"They had three of the finest fast bowlers in world cricket, and 10 overs into a Test in South Africa they're working on how to manage the ball to get it to reverse.

"They got too carried away with reverse swing and forgot about orthodox, normal swing bowling that's been around for 140 years."

Chappell, who captained one of Australia's finest pace bowlers in Dennis Lillee, says teams have moved too far away from the basics of fast bowling, while another element of the game also took a back seat as reverse swing took over.

"I think that's been going on for a long time, teams being fixated with reverse swing, to the detriment of getting the new ball to swing," he said.

"To my way of thinking, as a captain, surely you're looking to get rid of the top four as quickly as you can, because if you can get rid of them quickly the job gets a hell of a lot easier.

"The other aspect that has suffered through the fixation with reverse swing is spin bowling. I think that's taken a bit of a back seat because they're trying to get the old ball ready for the quicks."

For Healy, Haysman's comments about the death of reverse swing signal a possible shift in the dynamics of the game.

"It's very interesting for me because Mike Haysman is a good observer, because the desperation that we saw Australia stoop to in Cape Town was influenced by what South Africa was doing, swinging the ball so convincing both ways, at good pace," the former wicketkeeper said.

"Now that Mike hasn't seen that happen in South Africa in the last 12 months … that's very interesting.

"The Cape Town Test could have cleaned up the whole game!"