Last week, Cameron Bancroft was announced as Durham’s captain for the upcoming season. Beneath the 12 months of faux outrage and pent-up fanaticism, it is a decision that – when all is stripped back and rationality replaces supercilious blood thirst – is full of humanity, one that an imperfect world should be able to get behind.
Leadership, by nature, demands a certain authority. Since it was announced, many have questioned quite what control or moral conscience exists within Bancroft to assert on his new team-mates.
But those who have erred are often those most empathetic. And in accepting and dealing with a nine-month ban, as well as global and indefinite infamy, Bancroft has shown himself to carry all the character required to cope and thrive. Among the 18 counties there will, perhaps, be few fitted with a greater moral compass, few for whom right and wrong are now so black and white.
Chuck in a successful spell with Gloucestershire, and it is an appointment full of logic. It is a call that makes sense, too, for Durham – a county in a state of relative flux, after the retirement of a club legend in Paul Collingwood, as well as a new chief executive, sporting director and head coach.
Quite frankly, by stepping into a new environment and hauling himself back upon the proverbial horse, Bancroft may well even begin his tenure with greater respect from his colleagues than that found by previous overseas players.
Bancroft has spent the past year with the die cast on his character. Even when he sought to explain his actions around the notion of an anxious newcomer desperate to fit into a team culture renowned for its brutal, hostile ruthlessness, it was deemed by many an excuse and an attempt to alleviate responsibility.
Of course, in accepting his suspension, he had proven his accountability. His self-analysis reflected on his own weakness, a desire to connect with a group deeply disliked even within corners of Australia. It was, to my mind, a stance of honesty – one to be applauded, rather than scoffed at.
It is worth remembering that Bancroft, ultimately, was the ‘ball-tamperer’ – if such a term exists. Perhaps, it has never formally been coined because, beyond the pandering to the Spirit of Cricket and a desire to despise a team constructed on foundations of brashness, scratching the ball isn’t the world’s end.
Before Bancroft’s sanction, nobody had ever been banned for ball-tampering in the history of Test cricket. Even Bancroft’s punishment was handed down by Cricket Australia; the ICC had found a 75 per cent match fee deduction sufficient. Now, while that may seem light, especially in the context of all to have happened since, it highlights the extent to which zealous fanfare gave wings to this controversy and allowed it to fly.
A year on, he has done his time, he has paid his penalty. Did he make a mistake? Undoubtedly. Would he do it again? I’d be surprised if he ever even picks up another piece of sandpaper.