Former South African captain Faf du Plessis has made the stunning claim that the Proteas suspected Australia of ball-tampering long before the ‘Sandpapergate’ scandal.
News Corpobtained excerpts from the 38-year-old’s autobiography titled, ‘Faf: Through Fire’, which is scheduled to be released to the public on October 28.
In it, du Plessis writes that the South African team started spying on Australian fielders through binoculars in the changeroom, such was their suspicions of potential ball tampering.
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He claimed that South Africa suspected Australia of ball tampering from the first Test of the series, something which News Corp claims is “vehemently disputed” by Australian sources.
“During the first Test in Durban, the Australian pace attack had got the ball to reverse insanely,” du Plessis writes.
“Mitchell Starc claimed nine wickets and, although I regard him as one of the best proponents of reverse-swing bowling I have ever seen or faced, those deliveries in Durban were borderline unplayable.
“He would come in around the wicket with a badly deteriorated ball and get it to hoop past us.
“Our balls had also reversed but not nearly as much as theirs.
“We suspected that someone had been nurturing the ball too much to get it to reverse so wildly, and we watched the second Test at St George’s through binoculars, so that we could follow the ball more closely while Australia was fielding.
“When we noticed that the ball was going to David Warner quite often – our changing room must have looked like a birdwatching hide as we peered intently through our binoculars.
“There was a visible difference between how Mitchell Starc got the ball to reverse in the first Test in Durban and the final Test in Johannesburg. We now know that there was an obvious reason for that.”
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Du Plessis does not specifically accuse Starc of anything untoward and did go on to reference both his and South Africa’s own past incidents of ball-tampering, including when he used a mint to shine the ball to make it swing in late 2016 in Australia.
“I’m not mentioning this from atop a high horse,” he added.
“In the past, we have also been found guilty of employing unorthodox methods to get the ball to reverse swing.
“In our team, we just thought, ‘Nah! Ball tampering and reverse swing have always been there.’ In fact, it was probably more prevalent when camera technology wasn’t as good as it is today.”
Du Plessis actually went on to claim he does not think Steve Smith, who was banned for 12 months, “did much wrong” while adding he has “tremendous sympathy” for Cameron Bancroft.
David Warner though, who was banned for 12 months and is still barred from any leadership role in the Australian cricket team, did not get any mention from du Plessis.
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“Personally, I don’t think Steve Smith did much wrong,” he wrote.
“It’s no secret that all cricket teams want the ball to reverse. Not everyone knows how to accomplish this, especially not inexperienced players. But everyone knows it’s wrong to change the condition of the ball. We, too, have pushed those boundaries.
“Steve Smith and I have never been friends but we always played a hard game against each other, and Steve had been willing to defend me publicly in 2016 when ‘Mintgate’ broke.
“I texted him that evening [in Cape Town]: ‘Message of support. Gone through this myself. It is a terrible experience when they attack your character. Hang in there. It will blow over.’
“He responded, ‘Thanks mate!’ To which I replied, ‘There will be a s***storm for a while. But stay strong.’
“I have tremendous sympathy for what he [Bancroft] went through. This is what happens in a team when the culture of belonging is restricted to performance and when players are made to believe that they need to prove themselves at any cost before they feel accepted.”
Australia’s current bowling attack was forced to issue a join statement last year after Bancroft appeared to suggest Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon were also aware of the ball-tampering tactics.
“We did not know a foreign substance was taken onto the field to alter the condition of the ball until we saw the images on the big screen at Newlands,” the four bowlers said in a joint statement last year.
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“And to those who, despite the absence of evidence, insist that ‘we must have known’ about the use of a foreign substance simply because we are bowlers, we say this: The umpires during that Test match, Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth, both very respected and experienced umpires, inspected the ball after the images surfaced on the TV coverage and did not change it because there was no sign of damage.
“None of this excuses what happened on the field that day at Newlands. It was wrong and it should never have happened.
“We’ve all learned valuable lessons and we’d like to think the public can see a change for the better in terms of the way we play, the way we behave and respect the game. Our commitment to improving as people and players will continue.
“We respectfully request an end to the rumour-mongering and innuendo. It has gone on too long and it is time to move on.”