It's just over one year since the biggest scandal in Australian cricketing history – ‘Sandpapergate’, when David Warner, Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith were caught tampering with a ball during a Test Match in South Africa. Not since Greg Chappell’s underarm bowling debacle of 1981 has the Australian cricket team been the focus of so much hot debate. The bans imposed on the three players have been lifted, and we’re ready to welcome them back to the team. So, what can Sandpapergate teach us about handling our mistakes?
Steve Smith, left, apologised at a news conference for the ball-tampering incident that led to him being banned by Cricket Australia for 12 months. Image: Brendan Esposito
1. Take responsibility for your shit
The best thing you can do when you stuff up is to take full responsibility for whatever you did. Cameron Bancroft tried to hide his sandpaper and to cover up the situation. Bad idea – it just makes things a whole lot worse. Trying to keep up the deceit will drag the issue out and make it harder for people to forgive and forget.
If you can stand up and own what you did wrong, you’ll be way better off in the long run because people will still be able to respect you. As the captain, Steve Smith accepted that it was his responsibility. He owned the fact that if he’d shown stronger leadership the whole mess might not have happened. He had the courage to own up to his part and it gave us a reason to keep backing him.
2. Check your ego
Australia has a bit of a reputation for treating our sporting stars as gods and heroes. We put them on pedestals, and sometimes this means they develop massive egos. Confidence can be a good thing, especially when you’re constantly in the spotlight and open to tonnes of criticism and need to back yourself. But when your ego gets out of control, it can make you think you’re too good to get caught.
Maybe David Warner and Bancroft thought they could get away with cheating, or that it wouldn’t be a huge deal – because of how much the public loved them. But, when you betray people’s trust, there’s no place for a big head. Once they put aside their egos and owned up to what they’d done, everyone was able to start moving on.
3. Ask yourself, ‘Why?’
You didn’t find yourself in this situation randomly – something caused you to land in hot water. Maybe you gave in to peer pressure or thought you could get away with something you shouldn’t. Whatever the reason, take the time to figure out why and how you ended up here.
Smith, Bancroft and Warner didn’t uphold any of the values we’d expect from them. If you find yourself in the same situation, reminding yourself of what you value and the kind of person you want to be should help you avoid trouble next time.
4. Remember: no one’s perfect
Our country is absolutely sports mad, and that means we can forget that sports stars are only human. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a celebrity, super-rich and famous, or just a regular person – you’re not perfect, and you’re sometimes going to make mistakes.
When we remember that mistakes are a part of life, and that everyone makes them, we’re way better off. One of the upsides of stuffing up is that you’re given an opportunity to learn what NOT to do next time.
5. Take it on the chin
With every mistake comes consequences – there’s no avoiding them. So, if you’ve been caught out doing something you shouldn’t, take it on the chin and accept what comes next. Smith, Warner and Bancroft all accepted the bans they were given, harsh as they may have seemed at the time. Forgiveness comes a lot quicker when you own what you’ve done and accept the fallout.
6. Move on
It sounds simple – and we know it’s not – but you’ve gotta move on. Put in the effort to learn from the experience and make amends, and then forgive yourself. This will allow the people around you to forgive you, too. Then you can start to get on with your life.
Smith, Warner and Bancroft have paid their dues and let the dust settle, and Smith and Warner have just been named in Australia's Cricket World Cup 2019 squad. Because of how they handled themselves a year ago, we’ll welcome them back, forgive them for what happened, and look forward to whatever they do next.