OPINION PIECE: Lehman just as guilty as Smith and Bancroft

IT’s unfortunate that #SandPaperGate has dominated the headlines over the course of the last day in a series in which the cricket has generally been good but overshadowed by bad blood between the teams on and off the field of play.

Steve Smith came out last night after play and claimed that “the leadership group” were the ones responsible for the plan to tamper with the ball and assured the press that the coaching staff were not involved and were totally oblivious to the plan. If that were to be true, how would it explain the conversation between Darren Lehman and substitute fielder, Peter Handscomb, on their walkie-talkies which was captured by the SuperSport cameras.

In the footage, which was later showed on the Newlands big screen, Lehman are seen to be talking in his walkie-talkie whilst Handscomb, sitting on the field in the players’ dug out, is seen listening to a supposed instruction until he sees himself on the big screen and takes the devise away from his ear and then spins the Aussie Rules football he had in his other hand. See footage below.

However, he soon after made his way onto the field of play and had a discussion with a nonchalant looking Bancroft who subsequently took the small yellow object out of his right pocket and put it in the front of his pants. The umpires, England’s Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth then saw the footage on the big screen and met with Bancroft who showed them a black cloth as that was the only thing left in his pockets.

It is clear from the footage that Lehman tried to control the damage after he saw his players cheating on the big screen and that he tried very hard to hide his two way radio behind his hands and not make it obvious that he was in fact in communication with Handscomb on the ground and in all likelihood instructing him to tell Bancroft to get rid of the evidence.

Bancroft and Smith then faced the media after play was stopped due to bad light and made it clear that they knew what they were doing and admitted guilt but excluded Lehman from the list of accused and stated that only the “leadership group” knew about the supposed plan. The Aussies then came out on day 4 and said that Smith and David Warner were no longer the captain and vice captain of the team for the remainder of the test match and it seemed as if wicketkeeper, Tim Paine, were calling the shots for the Aussies thereafter.

It’s unfortunate that Smith and Lehman has dragged rookies Bancroft (7 tests) and Handscomb (12) into this messy affair which could be detrimental to their young careers. It immediately reminded me of the late Hansie Cronje’s tendency to involve young, naïve players players like Herschelle Gibbs and Nicky Boje into his schemes as he knew that the youngsters were in total awe of him and would do anything to be in his good books.

This all happenning at a time when test cricket is seeing a decline in spectator and viewer numbers and white ball (and especially the T20 version of it), is showing continued growth and attracting new players to the shortest version of our beloved sport.

We need the Rabada’s and the Warner’s of the cricket world to be making the headlines for all the right reasons. What we don’t need is the best batsman in the world to be cheating.

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