Banned Bancroft's journey of self-discovery
Spanish lessons, yoga and a host of community work have all been part of the path taken by Cameron Bancroft since the Newlands ball-tampering scandal. The Australia batsman has been looking to seek the sort of perspective and self-knowledge that will prevent him from following the kind of instructions issued to him by David Warner in the Cape Town dressing room.
Bancroft spoke in Perth on Saturday ahead of his return to cricket via Twenty20 and 50-over appearances in the Northern Territory, where he will also endeavour to work closely in developing local talent. It's the next step on the path away from Newlands as Bancroft serves a nine-month ban from the game imposed by Cricket Australia under its code of conduct.
Perspective on life was greatly needed as Bancroft, Warner and the former captain Steven Smith pondered what evolved in South Africa, and Bancroft said he had spent plenty of time devoting himself broadening his own knowledge and also to the service of others as a result.
"I've been practising a lot of yoga, I started learning a new language, I've learned Spanish for six weeks, I've been doing a lot of community work, went up to Broome and worked with the Kyle Andrew Foundation and worked with kids with cancer," Bancroft said in Perth. "I've done some work with Manna in a few schools at a breakfast club and things like that, and they've all given me great perspective. Personally I'm my own harshest critic at the best of times, so being able to connect with these different points in the community has given me a lot of great perspective for myself and something I'm really grateful for.
"I can't change what happened in South Africa and that's something I'm completely accountable for. Everything since South Africa I've moved towards have been steps closer to one day getting back and playing cricket for Australia again, because I love the game. I love playing cricket and as hard as it may be to connect how learning Spanish links to playing cricket for Australia again, they're all little stepping stones to me achieving that dream again.
"Right now I'm feeling really good, the last couple of months, it has been a bit of a roller coaster, you certainly ride the waves of grieving and everything like that. There's been times I've felt really sad, many times I've felt really angry, but overall I've worked really hard on myself, been really busy with things and right now it's just another step forward heading up to Darwin to play some cricket and I'm really looking forward to it."
Warner, Smith and Bancroft have kept in regular contact in recent weeks, while the new Australian coach Justin Langer and the captain Tim Paine have also worked to ensure the suspended trio are up to date on the national team's fresh direction - an inauspicious tour of England notwithstanding.
"I speak to them quite regularly, at least every week, whether that's a phone call or some messages and stuff, they're really busy too, but they're two really great people and we've been looking after each other," Bancroft said of Smith and Warner. "That's a value I know we hold really closely at the WACA, the idea of looking after your mates, and we've been going through all this together and we definitely look out for each other, that's for sure
"Very similarly to me they've been up and down as well the way they've been feeling, but you can hear it in their voices that you come out of that and you move towards a light at the end of the tunnel. It's been a little while now since we got back from South Africa [but] it feels like yesterday that I was sitting at the WACA honestly having these really sad conversations with all of you, now here I am and I'm about to step off and play some cricket again. I know those guys would've felt exactly the same.
"It's a really great thing for Australian cricket that Justin's been able to come in and carry forth the values and the hard-working culture he's produced in Western Australia. I know that all the Australian cricketers, even cricketers that have seen Justin coach WA, have always looked up to him and I have no doubt even with the lack of success they had in England they certainly would have felt overawed by that. It's a cliche that Rome wasn't built in a day and I know the Australian cricket team won't be built in one series; that takes time and no better way than having Justin leading that."
The level of infamy shared by the Newlands trio has been significant, but Bancroft said that there was no stage at which he considered moving away from the game. He stated that the coverage of the ball-tampering incident, and the outrage that stemmed from it back home in Australia, had been "appropriate" to the events that took place.
"Cricket was firmly always my path and my focus to come back to," Bancroft said. "As little a step as it was to get up in the morning and have breakfast at the same time each day, or wake up and have breakfast and then go to the gym and train or run, as little steps as they were, for me they were really positive movements to that end goal - that I'm going to return and play cricket again.
"I took a step back and simplified my life a lot. When you're in the media a lot, good or bad, it can be really challenging to deal with and really challenging to digest the different opinion that flies around. There was a lot of opinion, a lot of people saying things, and for me it was about me, my mistake and the poor decision I made. What anyone else thought or said didn't change the fact I made a really bad decision and I've had to really give myself for that error I made, but it's all a part of moving forward with it all. Media reacted appropriately to the situation and what happened and I have no anger or judgment or resentment about that at all."
The role of Bancroft's parents, Frank and Linda, was also significant in helping him emerge from the post-Newlands fog. Over coming days Bancroft will turn mentor himself, as he seeks to repay NT Cricket for giving him an opportunity to play while banned from international and state representation.
"There would've been times when mum and dad's phones would have blown up," Bancroft said. "I've had things crop up, particularly when you're grieving and going through some emotional responses to the events that have happened in South Africa and they've been there for me, they've listened, they've given me perspective and I feel like I've stepped closer to coming out of that, moving on with my life and also with my cricketing career too.
"I've been working with Northern Territory Cricket to give back to some of their programmes they offer, with the weather up there they've got quite a few squads that are training right now, so I'll look to give my wisdom, give my heart, give my all to help those guys fulfil their potential. It isn't about me in that space and that was a really big learning curve in the community services, I rock up and give my heart to these people and it's not about me at all, it's about them. That's the great thing I look forward to is that I'm not here for me, I'm here for those guys and what can I do to help."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig