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The events of the past week show Australia's sandpaper scars still remain

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Roar Rookie
4th November, 2018
6

Cricket Australia’s handing down of ‘The Longstaff Report’ on Monday was touted as the “sledgehammer the game needed”.

As a result, the media hounds are baying for the blood of Cricket Australia Chairman, David Peever, suggesting that he should stand down immediately.

While the hierarchy must bare some of blame for the events that transpired in Cape Town, the real and most significant fallout from ‘Sandpaper Gate’ was only beginning in park cricket over the weekend.

With an event like this one, the biggest problem is that the scars that surface run so deep, it is usually impossible for those involved to ever truly redeem themselves.

Sporting history teaches us that cheating scandals always become the catalyst for career-ending carnage. Whether it be Lance Armstrong, Ben Johnson, and Marion Jones’ drug cheating or Rosie Ruiz who once won the Boston Marathon after taking the train, once someone is tarred with the cheaters’ brush they are tarred for life.

This is something David Warner was quick to discover when he stepped out for Randwick Petersham on the weekend.

David Warner

David Warner leaves the field. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

On Saturday afternoon, Warner walked onto Pratten Park with his usual gusto and swagger, the Gray Nic locked and loaded.

What he did not know, was that one time friend, Jason Hughes, was going to remind him of an inconvenient truth.

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David presumed that his return to grade cricket would be uneventful, that opposition players would roll out the welcome mat and bask in the cricketing genius that is David Andrew Warner. He simply needed to pile on the runs and suddenly, all would be forgiven.

It turned out he was mistaken. After Warner began to assert his authority over West’s attack, the barbs began to fly.

At one point, Hughes reminded Warner that he shouldn’t even be allowed to play after his recent transgression, allegedly calling the Allan Border medallist “a disgrace”. What followed was a typical response from Warner; he took his bat and ball and threatened to go home.

This act speaks volumes about Warner’s current mental state. It reveals that he is a broken man, mentally weak and still hurting after the very public shaming he received for his role in the greatest cheating scandal to hit the Australian men’s cricket side.

The once self-proclaimed attack dog looked anything but as he whimpered back into the dressing sheds. Although he returned to the field and registered a patient 157, it did little to disguise the fact that Warner is nowhere near ready, at least in his mind, to return to first-class cricket.

His walk off showed that he probably isn’t even ready for cricket in the park with a few mates and a beer.

If white-anting from a mediocre grade cricketer is going to get under his skin, what chance would Warner have of stepping out against the great sledgers of the modern era?

Imagine the banners in the crowd from rival supporters and the quips he is going to cop from opponents as soon as he charges out onto the field for New South Wales or Australia.

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“Hey Davey boy, reckon you can pick me up a sausage on your way back from Bunnings?”

“David, is Candy going to bring your stick out to the middle? She is always going into bat for you”.

Alternatively, if they didn’t provoke the desired response, perhaps there would be the obligatory Sonny Bill gibe.

Do you really think South Africa are going to forget ‘Sandpaper Gate’ in the upcoming three match one-day series? And do you really think our archenemies are not going to mention it in next year’s Ashes? If Warner is ever going to represent Australia again, he will need thick skin and some earmuffs.

Which is why calls this week from Test greats to have the suspended trio of Warner, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft reinstated at the top level immediately are absurd.

They have made their own beds and must sleep in them. Not only were the punishments reasonable, they were necessary in order to send a message to the ICC that they also need to do more to stamp out cheating and foul play in our great game.

For too long, punishments handed out to players for a range of misdemeanours have been lenient to say the least.

Warner though, is not the only one who seems to be suffering psychologically in the ball-tampering aftermath.

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Once the darling of the Australian side, former Captain Steve Smith is also showing the strain of being implicit in the events in Cape Town.

While Smith has seemingly escaped the wrath of the armchair critic, being regarded as an innocent pawn in the whole sordid affair, he in nonetheless a tainted man.

Smith has managed a relative poultry 109 runs @ 36.33 in four outings for club side Sunderland this season, including a third-ball duck against Easts on the weekend.

Steve Smith

Steve Smith (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

A notoriously nervous cricketer – he once didn’t sleep a wink while being not out on 97 overnight during a Test match – it is hard to see how the self-conscious prodigy can return to his best after feeling like he has let down everyone from his family, to his team mates, to the public.

For Smith, the pain will be too much to carry.

Cameron Bancroft also seems to have been affected by the fall out. Like Smith, his confidence seems low and he too is experiencing a form slump.

Test players rarely turn out for their club sides and when they do, they often look like men playing boys. This is not the case for Smith or Bancroft, with the latter failing to pass triple figures in four innings for Willetton so far this year.

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With many, including myself, casting Warner as the villain in this long running cricketing pantomime, it is plausible that Smith and Bancroft may escape the sporting scrap heap.

Time will tell if these scars can heal and who knows, one day maybe all three players may yet return to the baggy green. At the moment though, it seems all three would be better off taking a lie down on Sigmund Freud’s couch.