Australian cricket star David Warner’s manager has made the stunning accusation that cricket officials told players to tamper with the ball before the Sandpapergate scandal that rocked the sport in 2018. Speaking a day after Warner withdrew his push to have his lifetime captaincy ban lifted, his manager James Erskine accused cricket officials of ordering players to break one of the sport’s cardinal rules.

Then-captain Steve Smith, Warner and bowler Cameron Bancroft were all hit with heavy sanctions over the episode during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town, which saw Bancroft rough up one side of the ball with sandpaper. He claimed the shocking development occurred after the Aussies suffered a heavy loss to South Africa in a Test match in Hobart in 2016.  Erskine alleged the officials were ‘berating the team for losing against South Africa’ after the Test. 

At no stage did Erskine state the officials allegedly involved were from Cricket Australia. The manager also slammed the governing body’s handling of the scandal when it first broke, alleging the investigation was rushed and his client was made a scapegoat for the affair.

‘Warner said, “We’ve got to reverse-swing the ball. The only way we can reverse-swing the ball is by tampering with it” and they were told to do it,’ Erskine told SEN radio on Thursday. ‘When the truth comes out, everyone’s going to turn around and say, well, why was David Warner picked upon?’ he said. ‘Cricket Australia had the whole process, the [Iain] Roy report was done in four days.

‘You’d have to be a blind black labrador, there was far more than three people involved in this thing. They all got a caning and David Warner was completely villainised. ‘He has shut up, he has protected Cricket Australia, he protected his fellow players on my advice, because at the end of the day no one wanted to hear any more of it and he’s got on playing cricket.’

On Wednesday, Warner withdrew his bid to have his lifetime captaincy ban lifted, accusing the independent panel conducting the review of wanting to publicly lynch him. In a bombshell development on the eve of the Adelaide Test, Warner also claimed counsel assisting the review had made offensive and unhelpful comments about him during the initial process. In a lengthy 793-word statement posted on his Instagram page, Warner revealed he had applied to have his leadership ban lifted a fortnight ago.

Cricket Australia has since confirmed they supported the 36-year-old’s push to have that process changed, but both were on Wednesday told by the independent panel of code-of-conduct commissioners they were holding firm on the matter. Under the belief Cricket Australia’s review would centre more on his own growth since the 2018 ball-tampering saga, Warner said he was dismayed to be told the review would include a cross-examination on the issue.

Warner’s wife Candice broke down crying on live radio on Thursday as she revealed the toll the Sandpapergate saga and lifetime leadership ban has taken on their family. ‘We live it day to day, that pain doesn’t go away. It’s still raw,’ she said on Triple M’s Summer Breakfast Show.

‘David always puts family first, and he is fiercely protective of me and the three girls … cricket is not everything. It’s what he does, but it doesn’t define him. ‘The fact there was a lack of player welfare, and no welfare about David and our family speaks volumes. ‘It has affected us for so long and I’m pretty sure that everyone doesn’t want to continue talking about this … David has had enough and the team has had enough.’  

‘We go to the cricket so often and there’s always people yelling things out and my daughters proudly wear their father’s name on their backs. ‘The fact that my daughters have to cop abuse from incidents that have happened in the past is not fair.

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