Cameron Bancroft opens up on his journey from sandpapergate to Durham Cricket and how the scandal changed him
He almost gave it all up for yoga.
But 12 months on, Cameron Bancroft seems at ease with himself.
Questions about ‘sandpapergate’ are dealt with politely, honestly and with a slight air of restraint. Bancroft just wants to be a cricketer again.
Newlands still looms large but having swapped the shadow of Table Mountain for Lumley Castle, the Australian is facing up to a very different challenge.
This morning, for the first time, he will lead out Durham Cricket as club captain.
It’s no great exaggeration to say he’ll have to do most of his learning, about his team-mates and the opposition, on the job.
A tall order, but one that he hopes will set him back on the path to reclaiming his place in the Test side.
Time away from the game has, he insists, given him a new perspective on cricket.
The inference is clear. No longer is he the kind of character who would bring the laws and spirit of the game into disrepute.
“I thought about walking away from cricket,” he said.
“September last year, when I was doing my yoga teacher training course. I got halfway in and I was really loving and enjoying what that was about.
“Walking back to where I was staying one day, I had a thought that perhaps cricket wasn’t going to be for me. I was umming and ahhing at that point in time.
“But once I started playing grade cricket for my club, I had so much fun being out there with my club team. And I thought if I can have fun doing this, I can have fun playing for any cricket team that I’ll play for.
“It was a bit of a weird feeling. But I am certainly loving being where I am right now.
“I think being able to take time to detach myself from cricket was something that I found a lot of joy in,” he added.
“To know that the identity and person I created from being a professional cricketer, a game which I love, I think I was just able to connect a lot with different parts of the community, meet a lot of great people. Turning that event from South Africa into a positive was something I was really proud of and to have that opportunity to grow as a person, you’d be silly not to take those steps forward.
“I feel far more relaxed with things. As a player, prior to the ban I was very intense.
“When you let go of that, have no choice but to let go of the game, pursue other things, I got involved with some really great charities, foundations. I’ve got a really great passion for yoga now, I did a teacher training course. That was a really exciting thing about the last year.
“It would mean a lot to me, to be recalled, definitely. But I also know that I’ve got a lot of great things in my life, even just playing club cricket back at home in Perth, it’s a game that you can get really single-minded and absorbed in your pursuits, at the forefront of it all is just the enjoyment. If I do that I know the results will hopefully take care of themselves.”
Bancroft has met his new team-mates, sandpapergate dealt with.
“Of course we spoke about it, me being really authentic to others is something I’m passionate about,” he said.
“I’ve only had a short period to know my team-mates, but in the time I’ve spoken I’ve been really honest with who I am and respecting the past.
“As the journey goes on this season, it’s about understanding my team-mates and how I can best give them something from the lessons I’ve learned.
“Their reaction? We were previewing tomorrow’s game and it all entails how we are going out to perform and play really good cricket. It’s not about me being here, it’s about the team learning and improving. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.
“We have got some young players for sure, but a lot of guys who have played quite a bit of first-class cricket too. Being able to gel that together is something I am really excited to be a part of.
“I know when I spent time in Gloucestershire, I always thought up here in the north they have a really tight bunch of blokes. I think that can be a really good advantage. We go out and perform well, get some wins on the board.
“Like winning can be a habit, losing can be a habit as well. So being able to turn that around and for it to lead us to consistency, that is what we are after as a group and we are on a journey to doing that.”
Bancroft is asked what his message would be, to those who are sceptical of his arrival as captain.
“I’m Cameron. I play cricket. Yeah, I made a really poor mistake. I’m really sorry for that. I will come and say G’day, say hello, shake your hands, sign your stuff. I will go out there and have fun for Durham Cricket.”
A win against Sussex would be as good a place as any to start.