Who has the infamous sand-papered ball that featured in the 2018 Cape Town Test that shoved Australian cricket into mourning and led to lengthy bans on Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft? It turns out it’s with Ian Gould, the third umpire in that match, on whom fell the onerous task of telling the on-field officials to stop the game and question the Aussie players. “It was a heart-stopping moment,” says Gould about the time when he had to convey the message to umpires Richard Illingworth and Nigel Llong.
Gould is promoting his book ‘Gunner: My Life in Cricket’ and has been reliving some of his cricketing memories in the process. In a chat with BBC show ‘Stumped’, Gould looked back at that fateful day in March 2018.
Gould recalled that he was chatting with match referee Andy Pycroft, the former Zimbabwe player, when the director’s voice came through in his earpiece. “I have some pictures for you,” Gould recalled the message about the footage that was served just for him and Pycroft.
“It was a bit surreal. There is Andy and I gazing at this TV monitor. We just sat there and went, ‘Oh dear’. That was it. It was actually about trying to collect your thoughts about what you are going to say because you have to go out to the on-field umpires and explain to them to stop the game,” Gould says.
Incidentally, it wasn’t the first time that Gould had been in the hot seat during a ball-tampering episode. He had officiated in a game in Dubai where South Africa’s Faf du Plessis had reportedly tampered the ball by rubbing it on his zip. Though that incident had come to his mind, Gould says this felt vastly different.
“It was the same sort of thing but this felt very different. The impact of what I was seeing and having to relay it to Richard and Nigel. It was bit of a heart-stopping moment.”
The first words Gould recalls telling the umpires were: “‘Nigel, Richard, I need you to get together and stop the game’.” They went why? I told them, ‘please get away from the players and I will explain to you’.” When Gould managed to share with them what he had just seen in the footage, he remembers the two umpires turning and looking towards the third umpire’s room and saying, “Really?”.
“They were relying on me now. The third umpire is seeing a lot more things than what you are seeing on the field. I can imagine what they were feeling when I told them to stop the game,” Gould says.
The cricketing world saw what followed next. The umpires called Bancroft over and asked him to show what was in his pocket. “That’s because I had told them that the footage showed that he had put something in his pocket. So, they asked him and he quite rightly took out of the pocket what he had – it was the black cloth that you wipe sunglasses with.”
The game continued. Meanwhile, Gould received the next footage from the producers. “Why this man (Bancroft) did this ever in his life, because it must have been horrendous – he put the sandpaper down his trousers,” Gould says. “It was part two of the video. We had to stop the game again. The two umpires go to Cameron, which is not the easiest thing to be doing.”
When Gould is asked on the BBC show whether the on-field umpires had seen any evidence of the sandpaper being actually used on the ball, Gould replies in the negative.
“No, they hadn’t. Footage actually shows that the sandpaper was just about to be applied to the ball. So, at the end of the day, I don’t think sandpaper got to the ball,” Gould says. “It was naïve indeed; that yellow sandpaper highlights more than what it should do!”
Bancroft would later say that it was Warner who had asked him to do it. “Dave [Warner] suggested to me to carry the action out on the ball given the situation we were in the game,” Bancroft told Fox Sports. “I didn’t know any better because I just wanted to fit in and feel valued really. As simple as that. The decision was based around my values, what I valued at the time and I valued fitting in … you hope that fitting in earns you respect and with that, I guess, there came a pretty big cost for the mistake.”
Gould recalls umpiring in the next and final Test as “hilariously quiet”. “That game was surreal honestly. It was so quiet, so peaceful, nobody really spoke. I got to give credit to Faf du Plessis and the South Africans as they didn’t bring anything up. Not a word about sandpaper or anything stupid that can go around this game was said. I appreciate that but it was a difficult game to umpire. It was so quiet. I think everybody was still in shock, it got over so quickly.”
But how did the infamous tampered ball end up with Gould?
“I felt that if that ball was left in the box, some person was going to make a fortune out of it or whatever. I took it with permission from the anti-corruption officials. If anyone in ICC wants it back, they can have it back.”
And why did he take it? “I remember I had once brought my dad a pair of shoes that belonged to Barry John (Welsh Rugby player) at an auction. It cost me a lot too. When I gave it to my dad, he went, ‘Barry John didn’t wear Adidas!’.”
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