As Steve Smith and David Warner’s bans for ball-tampering come to an end, one big question about the scandal remains unanswered.
The duo, who are serving one-year international bans that end on March 29, recently joined the Australian team in Dubai as part of their reintegration after the scandal in South Africa that rocked the cricketing world.
Smith and Warner were welcomed back into the Australian fold with “hugs and cuddles”, and said it was like they’d never left.
The “sandpapergate” scandal in Cape Town, which also saw Cameron Bancroft banned for nine months, had far-reaching consequences for Australian cricket.
Then-coach Darren Lehmann quit and there was a clean-out of top executives from Cricket Australia after a scathing review said its “arrogant and controlling” culture was partly to blame for players bending the rules.
Australian cricket has since undergone a host of cultural changes under Langer, and Warner and Smith were brought up to speed at the meeting on how it now worked.
However veteran cricket writer Daniel Brettig says there’s still one aspect of the scandal that remains unanswered.
“A related issue is that Warner and Smith, by their very presence, will invite questions about an issue that CA contained last year without ever quite resolving,” Brettig wrote for ESPNcricinfo.
“Undoubtedly they will be asked about how long the ball tampering had been going on for, and with who’s knowledge.
“Unquestionably the world’s media, particularly that voracious English tabloids, will seek further opportunities to probe the issue – environments as controlled as the Dubai video news release will be nigh on impossible to come by during the World Cup and the Ashes.”
‘Brothers coming home’
“It seems like some really good energy among the team at the moment,” Smith said of the meeting in Dubai.
“It’s great to be back around the group, they’ve been really welcoming and almost like we’ve never left.”
Smith said the Dubai catch-up went through “the values that are instilled in the team at the moment and making sure we are on the right path looking forward to what’s coming up; a huge World Cup and an Ashes series in England”.
The pair, who are both returning from elbow surgery, are eligible for the final two games of the Pakistan series.
But selectors decided it would be better to ease themselves back at the upcoming Indian Premier League.
Langer, who has been vocal in championing their return, said it was like “two brothers coming home”.
“They have been received really well, we had a good night together and had some great meetings today (Saturday) so it’s been really positive,” he said.
“As a coach when you have got two guys with as many runs and experience as they’ve got coming back into a team that’s playing well, that’s very exciting.”