The headline for an article in today’s Daily Mail gets straight to the point: “Cheat Bancroft signs for Durham.”
Quite a headline, and one that would create interest on the front or back page of any publication, but a striking statement for a short piece tucked away on the foot of page 115 in the newspaper.
The ‘news’ here is that Australian batsman Cameron Bancroft will play for Durham in 2019. This would appear to be a good signing for the north east club as they seem to need all the help they can get having lost half of their 8 games in the Specsavers County Championship second tier this season and who languish in 8th place. What would most concern those in charge at Chester-le-Street is that they have only gained 9 batting points from their 8 games played – that’s 9 from a maximum 40.
Bancroft is an international batsman of some esteem hence why Somerset opted to recruit him for 2018 originally. But this headline highlights for me that Somerset were right to steer clear of signing Bancroft after his involvement with ball and sandpaper in pocket on the third day of the third Test in South Africa on March 24. We simply don’t need this type of publicity.
The fact is this player is going to find it very difficult to bury this incident and the subsequent ban he received from Cricket Australia alongside former captain Steve Smith and David Warner. In fact it may follow him forever through his cricket career and the next chapter.
Somerset moved quickly to sign another Aussie in Matt Renshaw, of course, and this was a flying success. On the field he scored 513 runs in 11 knocks including 3 centuries and 1 fifty at an average 51.3. Off the field he was enigmatic, polite and a fantastic representative for his country at a time when Australia needed some positivity. On social media his travel updates on the Somerset team bus were hilarious and endeared him greatly to his team-mates and Somerset fans.
In a funny way I wish Bancroft success at Durham as they are a county that I admire given their relatively short history and achievements winning three County Championships. I also hope this player can move on and be acknowledged for the runs he scores rather than sandpapergate. He will know – as will his employers next season – that opposition fans will be lining up to let him know what they think of him every time he sets foot on a field. He will need to stand tall at all times – there will be no letting up – particularly when he fails to trouble the scorers too much.
And they will also know that all the major publishers, not just the Daily Mail, will be planning their sensational headlines to highlight his every move. The word ‘cheat’ will follow him around and he will need to rise above it and grin and bear it.
There is no doubt that this challenge will offer Bancroft the biggest test of his life and career so far. You have to admire him for still wanting to try his hand in the English game. But I am also glad he will not be doing this while wearing the Wyvern.