“What the f*** is going on? Find out what the f*** is going on?” These were the words that Australia coach Darren Lehmann is supposed to have told substitute Peter Handscomb via the walkie-talkie after visuals of Cameron Bancroft using what is now known to be a piece of sandpaper to work on the ball were shown on the giant screen. And these are the words that convinced Cricket Australia investigators that the former left-handed batsman had no prior knowledge of the ball-tampering ploy that eventually resulted in lengthy bans for Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.
“It is understood and it has been verified by others that on the walkie-talkie he said… ‘what the f*** is going on?’, CA chief executive James Sutherland said.
“He said to Peter Handscomb ‘find out what the f*** is going on’. Beyond that, I would like to just touch on he brought everyone into the room when the next break was. He basically went through everyone and went ‘what is going on?’” he told Cricinfo.
Some former cricketers have doubted that Lehmann would have been in the dark about such a sinister plan, and Sutherland hinted that the coach would have to accept some accountability about the incident that has considerably damaged Australian cricket’s image. The culture and public persona that the team exuded under Lehmann will be questioned as well.
“I’ve got no doubt that he feels some sort of personal responsibility for that. We all do. This is a terrible situation. There are three guys going home that have been offered sanctions that are life-changing. There is a feeling of guilt and questions obviously being asked of lots of people as to why or how that might have happened. There is a rebuild that needs to happen to reinstate the faith and the confidence and, I guess, the pride that the Australian public had and should have in the Australian cricket team,” Sutherland said.
“We cannot have this happen again. If there are things that allow little things to turn into big things that allow this to happen, then you’ve got to go back to the core and find out what the little things are and address them.”
The penalties handed down to the three players – year-long bans for Smith and Warner and a 9-month suspension for Bancroft – have been termed too harsh by some, but Sutherland argued that the punishment was more for hurting the spirit of the game and bringing the game into disrepute.
“They haven’t been charged by Cricket Australia for ball tampering. It’s important to remind people that the code is worth reading, those four dot points, that’s what they’ve been charged for. That’s the significance. It relates to contrary to the spirit of the game, it relates to denigrating the game or having an impact on the reputation and image of the game, causing damage to the game.”