Cameron Bancroft: Image in tatters, career in jeopardy
Bancroft was caught red-handed indulging in ball tampering.
It will be safe to say that this, right now, is the darkest hour in Australian cricket in a long time.
As a cricketing nation, through its vast history, the side has seen a fair share of incidents and controversies, but the ball tampering scandal that has hit them right now will surely take time to digest and the entire world will be keeping a close watch as to what would be the next mode of action that Cricket Australia would take in the coming days.
In the middle of this fiasco is the 25-year-old right-handed opening batsman of this side Cameron Bancroft, who was caught on camera trying to alter the condition of the ball, which it was revealed was a planned course of action.
Now, there are two angles to consider, if this issue is perceived from Bancroft's perspective:
1. If the leadership group chose him to carry out the tampering with the ball, could he have said no?
2. What are the lesser experienced players in the squad thinking post this incident?
To answer the first question, as a member of the side, who is still building a name for himself within the fraternity and is not yet permanent, Bancroft only did what he was asked to.
It's like a soldier in the army. Sometimes, the most junior member in the troop is asked to proceed with the hardest of tasks simply because the seniors do not want to look like a fool if they failed to carry it out successfully.
But what about individualistic thinking? Surely, when Bancroft was hearing about the plan, he was sane enough to understand that the series of events in question had a great chance to tarnish his and the team's reputation.
Specifically for that reason, Bancroft does not deserve half as much sympathy as someone else, who might have stood up and said, "I am sorry. I am not putting myself through this".
The worst that could have happened had he not indulged himself in it might have been that he could have been omitted from the next game or the next tour or been demoted in the batting order.
Would that have been as bad as the cricketing world looking at you like a villain?
Right now, he has no place to hide, but the scenario that has been created has a lot to do with his decision making as much as it has got to do with what the so-called 'leadership group' were thinking when they put the embryonic career at stake.
Answering the second question, this present Australian squad has quite a few players in their mid-20s, but in terms of cricketing experience, they are still looking to build on and become pillars in the side.
Pat Cummins may have debuted in 2011, but has played just 12 Test matches in seven years.
What is he thinking right now? Would he be assuming that he would be next in line? Could the same 'leadership group' ask him to carry a bottle top in his pocket and make him scratch the top of the seam with it so that the ball would swing an additional foot and help him fetch wickets?
These are certainly nervy times for a young Australian cricketer in that dressing room, who is looking to make a mark in international cricket.
Who cares about cricket?
The bottom line, however, remains that purely from a character point of view, Bancroft has certainly lost a lot of demerit points and possibly, this incident is perhaps how the series would be remembered by, rather than what has happened on the field itself.
AB de Villiers has thrilled the audience with his sublime batting, but who would care to remember his antics now?
In the Durban Test, in the second innings, Cummins dismissed Faf du Plessis with an absolute corker that sent the stumps cartwheeling, same has been the case with Kagiso Rabada who bowled a jaffer to dismiss David Warner in Australia's first innings. Who cares though?
The last 24 hours have further depicted how international teams, critically international captains continue to think.
Last year, around this time, Virat Kohli in a press conference post the Bengaluru Test between India and Australia gave indications of the opposition employing unfair tactics without telling out the 'C' word.
Guess we should have trusted him a lot more then.