Questions for the Sandpaper Three

This year has featured some spectacularly poor decisions. Peter Dutton’s leadership challenge, Justin Milne’s mutually assured dismissal and the Central Coast Mariners’ Usain Bolt misadventure were all epic pieces of incompetence.

But none holds a candle to Australia’s two best cricketers and a gormless newbie getting busted ball-tampering. After years of scandals about picked seams and sticky sweets, our tactical geniuses thought it’d be bonza to use sandpaper in front of multiple high-definition cameras.

It was a worse Bunnings slip-up than any barbecued onion. And those involved seem to be under the misapprehension that they can talk their way out of it. On Wednesday Cameron Bancroft fingered David Warner, saying that he complied with his request to ball tamper because he “didn’t know any better” and “just wanted to fit in”, like a 13-year-old at the cool kids’ table – except he was 25 at the time.

When I was in the 13Ds, my entire team knew better than Bancroft. We lost every match, and while I’m not sure cheating would have helped much, it never occurred to us to try.

Ricky Ponting called this twaddle for what it was – an attempt to “rebuild his brand”. I’m not sure whether Roxy Jacenko was involved (she appeared with the Warners while David gave that deeply unsatisfying press conference), but it couldn’t have been any worse if she started marketing Bancroft bows on Instagram.

Steve Smith told Fox Sports that he should have asked himself “if this goes pear-shaped, how’s this going to look?” Thinking about the optics of getting caught is certainly an improvement on his decision-making in Cape Town, but how about not cheating because it’s, y’know, wrong?

Smith’s revelations about the team management telling players they were paid to win were interesting, because Cricket Australia seems not to realise that it’s in the doghouse as well. All its hype about the awesome “summer of cricket” fails to acknowledge that this is a mediocre summer by comparison, and it’s partly to blame.

So where’s Cricket Australia’s year-long penalty? Why hasn’t it made one of the days of each Test free to say sorry for its mismanagement? Why isn’t the chief executive apologising at every home Test match, and better yet, padding up at lunchtime to be personally pelted by the Milo kids?

I want to see the Sandpaper Three play again, but they need to acknowledge they’ve permanently sandpapered the lustre from their precious personal brands. They won’t even get a sponsorship deal from Black and Decker.

And the next time anyone wants to interview them about the incident, they should respond like Smith should have when cheating was mooted in Cape Town – with a big fat no.

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