Former England great and one of the most sublime left-handers in cricket history, David Gower has stated that it would be difficult for Steven Smith to be reinstated the captain of the Australian cricket team as the infamous Sandpaper Gate Scandal would always come back to haunt the legendary batsman. Gower added that major controversies like what transpired in Newlands in 2018 remain entrenched in people’s minds for a long period of time and feared any attempt to make Smith the leader of the pack again could throw those memories back into the public domain.
Smith, the Australian captain at the time of the Cape Town Test in March 2018, was handed a twelve month ban for using sandpaper to rough up the ball along with fellow team-mate David Warner while Cameron Bancroft was punished for nine months. The incident was again brought back into public life a couple of weeks back when Bancroft insinuated that the Australian bowlers in the match knew about the proceedings and what was being done to the ball.
Gower stated that reinstating Smith would only bring back those harsh memories and would not sit well with the Australian public at large. He added that the punishment meted out to the Australian players by Cricket Australia was harsher than what the ICC had initially proposed.
“People love rehashing an old scandal. There was a lot of righteous indignation at the time, there was a severe punishment meted out to the people deemed to be guilty; year-long bans, that’s a long time. Considering the ICC said, give it a few weeks, that’ll be fine. Then Cricket Australia says, ‘no, no, no, we’re going to make an issue of this and make it a good year and strip a man of the captaincy and ban everyone else for almost a lifetime’, not quite, so I think it has been done.”
Gower also added that Tim Paine had done a remarkable job in re-building and lifting Australia and he did not see Smith taking charge until the wicket-keeper resigned.
“We know he’s not going to do that until Tim Paine retires.From my perspective, Tim’s done a remarkably good job dealing with all the fallout of the ball tampering scandal. So he’s had to try and do something to restore the reputation of Australian cricket and yet keep that hard, competitive spirit that we all know so well at the forefront. That’s quite a tough balancing act. He’s had his own performances to worry about, of course, but I think he’s done a pretty good job, so for Tim the ultimate finish to a captaincy career would be to win the Ashes come your summer, so that would be a fitting way if he can," quoted Gower.
Gower further reiterated that if Smith is handed over the mantle of the team again it could possibly lead to problems with the Australian public and cricketing fraternity at large.
“Then you’ve got some decisions to make, but I think if Steve is offered the captaincy again, or if they consider that, there will be problems because people will instantly latch on to what we’ve been talking about."
Gower added that Smith is a mentally tough player who has let his bat do the talking after making a comeback from the ban scoring heaps of runs in the Ashes and across formats. He stated that it was a better idea for Australia to prepare someone else to replace Paine to lead the team and let Smith - the great batsman focus on his batting lest the controversy and chit-chat around it will start again.
“He’s proven himself a strong character since then. It’s all a question about what the alternatives are because if you have someone who is ready and waiting to take on the role fresh, then I think that’s probably a better idea and you let somebody like Steve keep his senior role, obviously with the Ashes at stake he’ll be trying to make the same amount of runs he made last time, and it’s potentially a better thing for him to carry on with the game, not go back to that previous life which will inevitably mean things are raked over again," said Gower.