Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he stands by his scathing criticism of the Australian cricket team, in the wake of the 2018 'Sandpapergate' scandal. The explosive controversy has once again made the headlines this week after David Warner sensationally withdrew his appeal to have a lifetime leadership ban overturned in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal.
Warner - whose manager said this week that Aussie players were given the green light to tamper with the ball some 16 months before the 2018 scandal - said he didn't want the appeal to turn into a "public lynching" after being denied a request by the independent panel to have the hearing held behind closed doors. Warner said he refused to subject his wife and three kids to the family "hell" they went through when the scandal first unfolded four years ago.
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The drama took another explosive twist on Thursday when Warner's manager David Erskine claimed two unnamed Cricket Australia officials told players to tamper with the ball if that was the only way they could get it to reverse-swing. Erskine also claimed the whole truth about the ball-tampering saga in Cape Town is yet to come out, that Warner had been "villainised" and that Turnbull - as Prime Minster at the time - had helped blow the whole saga out of proportion by labelling the team's actions a "terrible disgrace".
Turnbull, who also referred to the scandal as a “shocking affront to Australia” at the time, doubled down on his criticism after Warner effectively signalled an end to his captaincy hopes in Australian cricket this week. The former Prime Minster told The Sydney Morning Herald: “I have not gone back to review what I said at the time, but the ball-tampering was disgraceful conduct and I don’t think many if any people at the time disagreed on that score”.
The former PM's comments come after Cricket Australia (CA) CEO Nick Hockley lashed Warner's manager for the "unhelpful and unfounded" allegations that Aussie players were instructed to tamper with the ball by unnamed officials. Hockley suggested that by making those explosive claims, Erskine has done precisely what Warner hoped to avoid by creating more drama around the 2018 scandal.
“I think as an investigation was done at the time - but I think it’s been said repeatedly, if new information is to be brought forward then as with any matter of integrity there are those avenues to bring forward information at any stage," Hockley said.
“But I think it goes to the point raised at the outset, this was never and not about re-looking at the events or the decision. This was about looking at the sanction and whether behaviour since, and remediation, and the remorse was such that the ban could be modified.
“So I think to open up if, anything has been opened up, I think that’s totally counter to the objectives of the process. I think it’s precisely what David was hoping would not happen when he applied for it to be done in private.”
Cricket Australia chief hits back over latest drama
The CA chief also refuted suggestions from the Australian Cricketers Association CEO Todd Greenberg that Warner was left with little choice but to withdraw his captaincy ban appeal when the independent panel insisted it would be made public. Greenberg also took a thinly veiled swipe at CA for employing an independent panel in the first place and not handling it themselves.
While CA confirmed they had supported Warner's request for the panel to hold the hearing behind closed doors, Hockley said he was “disappointed” Warner withdrew his appeal. He was also critical of the way the veteran batter had spoken out against the saga on social media.
Hockley said he advised Warner against his social media bombshell on Test match eve, adamant a review of ball-tampering sanctions could go ahead without reopening old wounds.
"I disagree. He had a number of options," Hockley said. "He could have continued with the process and an application could have been made during the hearing to ask for accredited media not to participate (in parts).
"He could have just said 'I am going to withdraw, but I am not going to make a public statement'. I did relay that I was concerned I didn't want him to prejudice any future application with public comments. But clearly David has felt the need to say some things."
Hockley also rejected claims that the situation had dragged on for nine months, despite the players' union adamant it first approached CA to have Warner's ban reviewed in February. The CEO said the timing was aimed at having the review complete before Warner returned to the Big Bash with Sydney Thunder in January.
He also defended the fact his organisation could not just make a call on Warner's leadership ban itself, arguing an independent panel was supported by Sports Integrity Australia guidelines.
"We really wanted to afford him the opportunity to have the heading looked at to be able to explain how he has grown," Hockley added. "The process that has been put in place is appropriate. It is designed to be fair, transparent. We are disappointed he has chosen to withdraw his application."
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