Cameron Bancroft banks on his performances to bury the stigma of Sandpapergate

The Australian batsman talks about his stint with Durham, how he coped with the ban due to his role in the ball-tampering fiasco, and more, in an interview.

Cameron Bancroft says he has been working on being a more consistent batsman. Photo: Durham Cricket

Cameron Bancroft has been in prime form in the ongoing County Championship Division Two, hammering a couple of centuries for Durham so far. Be it his knock of 158 against Sussex or an 109 against Leicestershire — the 26-year-old has made his willow do the talking.

Life hasn’t been smooth for the talented batsman since March last year, when he was handed a suspension for his involvement in the ball-tampering fiasco, alongside David Warner and Steve Smith. With uncertainty looming large, the world had nearly crashed for Bancroft. But his family and friends backed him, and he battled the odds and returned to where he belongs — the 22 yards.

Unlike Warner and Smith, Bancroft is yet to return to the Australian team. Though it may be too late for him to seal a berth in Australia’s squad for the Ashes, Bancroft hopes to don the Baggy Green sometime soon. “I’m waking up each day and trying to get better,” he tells Sportstar during an exclusive interaction.

Excerpts

Q. This has been a good season for you. How do you see your county stint with Durham so far?

A. It’s been challenging, fun and really good as well. Obviously, I learned a lot, too. I think we’ve as a side been a bit inconsistent at times, we have played one-day cricket, then there was four-day cricket, so there have been a bit of here and there. But we have been peaking in the last couple of games. I think it’s a season that can evolve, [we can] lead by our game. That’s the beauty of county cricket.

What are the areas you have worked on and what have you learned from this stint?

I think I have worked on being like a more consistent player, really. I practised a lot in terms of technique for the last four months. I am trying to become more natural in my batting, that proves a lot. The areas [I worked on have improved] and I scored in each game I have played. I am scoring in different areas and adjusting to different wickets. That obviously has been good.

With the World Cup going on in England, are you following the tournament?

Yeah, I have watched the games, including the one between Australia and South Africa in Manchester. It’s been a good contest. Some good teams have played wonderful cricket and there’s good competition…

David Warner has been the leading run-scorer for Australia in the tournament. How does it feel to see him back in action after days of gloom?

David has come back pretty well. [Warner and Smith] have contributed to the team in the World Cup. That shows their determination and talent at the highest level. I am also working hard, so that I can be ready and return to the highest level again. Like all others, I, too, hope Australia wins (laughs).

How are you planning to bounce back to the international circuit?

I think as a batsman, everything you do is about making runs, isn’t it? So, I would say that you work on all those parts of the game that will help you make runs.

You were being considered the future star of Australian cricket when the ball-tampering controversy happened. Suddenly people were talking about how you brought disrepute to the game. How difficult was that phase?

People were writing about me in the media, people are constantly making judgements, and stuff like that… I think what I have been through makes you really tough. You learn a lot from that, and those things actually teach you the need to focus on what you do. When you take fresh guard, you get a lot of energy from others. It’s been an innate part of what I have probably been through.

Who were the people who kept you motivated during that phase?

My mom and dad and three younger brothers and family as well so, they were of great support. I also had the WACA, my cricket team, which supported me. Along the way I met people just on that journey that added value to my life and experience. It’s a pretty special journey, I made some good friends. I probably realised that all those people weren’t necessarily my friends at all so I just really embraced it. I couldn’t be around without everyone’s support, family and friends.

Did you speak to Smith or Warner during the suspension phase? Were you guys in touch?

We communicated with each other during our whole journey. All of us have gone through the same thing, and have handled it our own way. It has been tough, but we have been able to stay strong and return to the game. That’s the thing about it.

Now that you are back in the circuit, what are the lessons that those few months have taught you?

Good question. I think being true to yourself is really important. We want to play, we want to be pushing ourselves, but I think balance is important.

Cameron Bancroft was named Durham captain in March, 2019. Photo: Durham Cricket

 

Before the controversy happened, you were slowly cementing your place as a batsman. How important is it to make a comeback overcoming challenges? What would your advice be to a young cricketer?

We want to achieve things straightaway. But life is hard. Often you have to do the little things over and over again through the time and sometimes without a reward. We need patience. Last year when I quit my cricket I had patience. I couldn’t be nine months ahead. And even now I’m back playing again, there’s been times when I feel rushed and I feel like I just want to be somewhere else, but I can’t be there. You gotta be where you are…

For a cricketer, be it the domestic or national level, being at the right frame of mind is important. Having been through highs and lows, how important do you think the mental aspect is to ensure that you overcome all the odds?

It’s extremely important. Cricket is ultimately a battle, one ball at a time. You gotta be here and now, you worry that, you keep holding onto it. But you actually want to be somewhere else.. you try to achieve things, we can’t actually be there so, those little things give me a lot of space and stillness. When you carry those aspects, it gets you settled for a steady performance. That’s important.

In your cricketing career, who have you considered your hero?

I have idolised a lot of people, growing up. I have admired Justin Langer for the player and the mentor that he is. Then there is my dad, who played a key role in making me what I am. He helped me grow up, working on my batting in the early days. I also had a coach Wayne Andrews. There have been three brothers and they all had roles to play in where I am today.

With the Ashes coming up, how confident are you of breaking back into the national team?

I’m waking up each day and trying to get better. If you are not winning you are learning. Each day, I am trying to be more consistent, put more weight in everything I do. Giving myself every great opportunity of going back to my international career, which is where I want to be one day.