In March 2020, Cameron Bancroft was dropped from Western Australia’s Sheffield Shield side after a poor run of form that saw him score just 158 runs in 13 innings at an average of 13.16.
Bancroft had started the Ashes series in August 2019 as opener. It was his comeback Test after serving the nine-month ban for the ball-tampering incident in South Africa in March 2018. But he was axed after two Tests in England following scores of 8, 7, 13 and 16.
He was then left out of Australia’s 13-man squad for the Test series against New Zealand last year, in an otherwise unchanged group from the one that had beaten Pakistan 2-0 at home. The return to international cricket has not been easy for the 27-year-old, but he is optimistic about bouncing back.
In an interview, Bancroft reflects on his form in Shield cricket, the comeback after the ball-tampering ban and more.
First of all, we hope you’re doing well with the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc in the world. How has your training been affected by the circumstances?
At the moment, not a lot has changed. Our cricket season recently finished anyway, so having time off picking up a cricket bat has been nice. I’ve been keeping up my fitness quite a lot, doing a few weights sessions a week and plenty of running and riding my bike.
Your thoughts on the 2019-20 Sheffield Shield season. What are the things you did right and what you feel could’ve been done better...
This season has been a massive whirlwind for me. I found myself in the Test squad for the first two matches of the summer, caught at leg gully seven times, and then out of the WA (Western Australia) side at the end of the year. It was a frustrating season in Shield cricket. I spent so many mental and physical waking moments practising my technique in order to improve as a player. It was exhausting at times, especially after getting dropped from the Australian Test side in England. I have no doubt all that practice will benefit me at some stage, but this year I really forgot about the basics of batting. Watching the ball and looking to score runs. Taking the game on more. That’s one thing I would have done better. Worried less about my technique and listening to many people and just taking the game to the opposition, looking to score.
It’s been two years since the Cape Town Test match. How have you shaped your game since the comeback and what's the plan for the future?
Since returning to cricket from my ban, I have gone back to the basics, grooming all aspects of my batting. The time to do that was good, but at the end of the day, it’s the mindset you take out into the middle that determines your success. I aspire to be a more free-flowing player. In order to do that, I need to be really brave. I have a lot of trust in myself and my game. It’s easier said than done because I’ve always been a more conservative player in the longer form of the game. But at the end of the day, as Justin Langer said recently to me, it isn’t how long you bat for, but how many runs you score.
Did the sheer intensity of Test cricket surprise you somewhat at the start? What about the team environment, the dressing room atmosphere since your comeback into the team?
Before Cape Town happened, I felt I was really getting used to the intensity of Test cricket. I was starting to score better. It’s tough, especially in the UK where ball movement was a really big factor. I don’t think you ever feel comfortable. But that’s what you sign up for when playing Test cricket. It’s hard cricket. Everyone in the team made me feel welcome. The environment had changed a lot no doubt under a new coach, but it was good.
You’ve said before that you’ve acknowledged the error and you’ve moved on. What’s allowed you to get to this space?
A lot of reflection both personally and speaking to other people that I love and trust. I really believe that you need to go deep into every aspect of the trauma in order to really move forward. That can be very emotional, but life is hard. The mistake was big therefore it’s going to be uncomfortable letting go. Yoga and meditation were huge in that process as well. I found great solace rolling out my mat and dedicating my practice to letting things go. That was powerful for me. It helped get me to that space.
In retrospect, would you say you’re a better individual and cricketer after the experience?
I’ve learned a lot from the experience. It’s given me much wisdom that I can draw on today. But life keeps coming and throwing new challenges at you. I haven’t mastered it all yet, but every day I get up I’m trying to get better and better. Learning through mistakes is the only way you be a better individual. I’d like to think what happened in Cape Town had big impact on me being a better Cameron today.
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