It has been four years since the Sandpapergate happened. We have witnessed a lot of tears, heartaches, shock, disbelief and anger with people like Malcolm Turnbull (prime minister at the time) jumping to condemn what had happened. Calls for full and proper investigation led to banning and punishment of players.
The three lead villains were Cameron Bancroft, Captain Steve Smith, and David Warner. While Cameron Bancroft was given nine months ban, Captain Steve Smith and David Warner were banned for 12 months. And David Warner was slapped with a lifetime leadership ban for his role in the scandal.
But now an interesting fact has come to light. The inquiry conduct following the Sandpapergate expose was narrow. On tour as part of the Australian squad was the straight-shooting Usman Khawaja but not officially spoken to on the issue.
“The Sandpapergate inquiry conducted by former Cricket Australia head of integrity Iain Roy has been criticised for being too narrow and not interviewing enough people and Khawaja confirmed he was not officially spoken to”, reports the Herald Sun.
When asked whether he was surprised, he said: “At the time, yes.’’
Usman Khawaja said he was surprised on not being asked to give his version of events back then.
This weekend’s Test against South Africa is the First Test between Australia and South Africa since the infamous Sandpapergate ball tampering scandal of 2018.
Usman believes the Australian side has “grown up’’ since the Sandpapergate scandal and the team now – mature, plays the game slightly differently.
“Straight-shooting Khawaja would have been an interesting interviewee because he is known for speaking his mind rather than being chained to the flow of team thinking”, says the report in the Herald Sun.
This becomes particularly explosive considering what David Warner’s manager has claimed to be the truth.
With the now changed Australian cricket’s Code of Conduct,David Warner has the option to appeal his lifetime leadership ban. So he did. But upon learning an independent review panel would be making his whole hearing public, according to Channel 10‘s The Project, he “freaked and withdrew”.
“It appears that the panel is determined to conduct a public lynching” David Warner was quoted as saying by the program.
“Warner said 'we’ve got to reverse-swing the ball. The only way we can reverse-swing the ball is by tampering with it'. And they were told to do it.”
Incredible comments from David Warner's manager James Erskine on @1170sen
— SEN 1116 (@1116sen) December 8, 2022
Then the bombshell Warner’s manager James Erskine claiming the real masterminds of sandpapergate were yet to be unmasked.
“You’d have to be a blind black Labrador to not realize there was far more than three people involved in this thing”, James Erskine was quoted as telling a radio station by the program.
The program claimed Warner’s manger said after a particularly embarrassing test loss to South Africa in Hobart in 2016. Cricket Australia officials told the Australian players to cheat.
“Two senior executives were in their changing room in Hobart and basically were berating the team for losing against South Africa and Warner said we’ve got to reverse swing the ball. And the only way we can reverse swing the ball is by tampering with it. So they were told to do it”, Warner’s manager was quoted as telling the radio station.
The big question is – was Usman Khawaja in the dressing room at the time? If he was, was his – honest, straight-shooting character trait that discouraged the inquiry to speak to him officially for his version of events?
No one knows as yet, and perhaps we never will.
For his part in the team building, Khawaja says “I’m being genuine that time heals all wounds I guess in a way the guys have come so far from that.’’
Khawaja is training in Brisbane where the team is preparing for the Test.
“Obviously being part of that tour, I know we are a very different Australian cricket team from what we were back then. The way we go about it, the way we play. A lot of the guys have matured as cricketers and humans. They are a bit older, a couple more kids, we play our cricket differently,” the Herald Sun quoted Khawaja as saying.
“Australian cricket as a whole and as individual players probably hit rock bottom. It gives you a lot of time to reflect on things. Guys have genuinely learnt a lot from that incident.
“I probably got to see it better than most because I was in the team then I went away and came back in and it is a nice change.’’
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