Cameron Bancroft says that he is ready to put the past behind him as he prepares to lead Durham into the County Championship season, but accepts that others may take longer to forgive him for his role in the ball-tampering scandal that rocked Australian cricket last year.
Bancroft, 26, was last month named as Durham’s captain for the 2019 season – a surprise appointment from the club’s new director of cricket, Marcus North. However, it is an honour that the player himself is eager to live up to, after claiming to have grown as a person in the course of his enforced absence from the game.
“Of course I haven’t had a lot of experience at first-class level captaining but I think all captains, all leaders, at some point in their lives started off captaining zero games of cricket,” Bancroft said. “That’s where I’m at right now and I’m just looking forward to learning about my team-mates, to being a part of the Durham County Cricket Club.
“They’re a team that have had a few changes to the squad over the last 12 months and I know they’re all really excited and looking forward to the future and I look forward to sharing and being a part of that.”
Images of Bancroft flashed around the world in March last year when, midway through the Cape Town Test against South Africa, he was caught using sandpaper to rough up the match ball, and even attempted to hide the evidence by stuffing the object down his trousers.
It led to a nine-month ban from the sport for Bancroft, and 12-month bans for his senior colleagues, David Warner, who was deemed to have hatched the plan, and Steve Smith, who as captain was responsible for his team’s on-field behaviour.
Bancroft said he “one hundred percent” hoped to return to the Australian Test team alongside Smith and Warner.
“It would mean a lot to me, definitely,” Bancroft said. “But I also know that I’ve got a lot of really great things in my life and even playing just club cricket back home in Perth, it’s a game that I felt like, you get really self-absorbed and single-minded in your pursuits to achieve things.
“But I think at the forefront is just the enjoyment of it all and if I do that I know that the result will take care of itself and it might not be. Hopefully that will happen one day.”
Bancroft admitted, however, that he had contemplated walking away from cricket.
“I’ve had moments where I’ve been really flat, really down,” he said. “You’re in a grieving phase, and you’ve got to be really honest with yourselves. Particularly as men you can sometimes really hold onto things, can’t you? So being able to express that to my family and I’ve had a really great sports psychologist back home. To be able to honour that within yourself is really important.
“Walking home one day to where I was staying I had a thought that perhaps cricket wasn’t going to be for me … but once I started playing grade cricket for my club, I had so much fun.”
The ban was, he reflects, an unexpectedly positive experience, in spite of the turmoil it caused at the time. Bancroft immersed himself in yoga, to “detach myself from the story of being a professional cricketer”, and got involved with volunteer projects, including a camping exhibition with the Kyle Andrews Foundation, which cares for sick and terminally ill children.
“As much as I missed cricket, the opportunity it gave me to look at myself was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” he said. “I had to go home. Sit with myself, grieve, forgive myself, and then ultimately move forward.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself, I think being able to take time to detach myself from cricket was something that I found a lot of joy in. To know that the identity and person I created from being a professional cricketer, a game which I love, I think I was just able to connect a lot with different parts of the community, meet a lot of great people.
“Turning that event from South Africa into a positive was something I was really proud of and to have that opportunity to grow as a person, you’d be silly not to take those steps forward.”