The ball-tampering boil is yet to be truly lanced according to Michael Clarke, now it remains to be seen whether it will cause yet more pain for Australian cricket this summer.
Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon released a joint statement on Tuesday, calling for an end to “rumour-mongering and innuendo” regarding their role in the 2018 Cape Town cheating scandal.
It came after days of debate, sparked by Cameron Bancroft replying it was “self-explanatory” when asked twice in an interview if Australia’s bowlers knew about the illegal ploy to use sandpaper on the ball.
Cricket Australia (CA) has since reached out to Bancroft, who declared he has no new information to offer.
As such, CA won’t reopen investigations into the incident after its formal probe cleared everybody in the touring party – outside of Bancroft, Steve Smith and David Warner – of any wrongdoing or knowledge of the plot.
CA chief executive Nick Hockley and Test skipper Tim Paine summoned Julia Gillard’s ‘moving forward’ mantra on Wednesday, trying to put the matter to bed.
“What the last 72 hours has done is bring back what was obviously a very painful time for lots of people,” Hockley said, weathering a barrage of sandpaper questions at the 2021-22 Ashes schedule announcement.
Hockley reiterated his faith in CA’s “thorough investigation”, rejecting fresh calls for it to be made public.
But former captain Clarke, having previously accused CA of trying to sweep the scandal under the carpet while being the most notable and vocal figure to express cynicism about the bowlers’ lack of knowledge, doubled down.
“I said what I said because that’s what I believe,” Clarke argued on radio show Big Sports Breakfast, hitting back at the four bowlers’ letter.
Clarke added “if there is more to the story, it is coming out”.
Englishmen Michael Vaughan and Stuart Broad, who is on track to compete in his eighth Ashes series later this year, expressed similar sentiments.
Smith and Warner, having each won the Allan Border medal since serving a year-long suspension for their roles in the saga, were stalked by near-constant reminders of the shameful chapter while in England for the 2019 World Cup and Ashes.
Clarke, other pundits and Australia’s opposition will shape how much the topic remains on fans’ minds at the Gabba on December 8, when the sport’s greatest rivalry resumes.
“I can’t see it still being a conversation in November-December but I can see it being sung in the Barmy Army stands if they’re allowed,” Broad said.
Coach Justin Langer, having worked hard to mend strained relationships and previously lamented feeling like the “director of a soap opera” and head of a “dysfunctional family”, is in a tricky position on several fronts.
Paine has made it clear there will be no selection backlash for Bancroft, who has been pushing for a Test recall since being dropped in 2019.
“We pick Test teams on guys scoring runs … (it) certainly won’t be held against him,” Paine said.
“Bangers had a really good Shield year again.”
Paine also backed his attack’s strong statement about the saga.
“They’re frustrated it keeps popping up,” he said.
“That’s part and parcel for everyone who played in that Test.
“They’ve spoken to Bangers, cleared the air.”