This time in Alternative Universe, the series in which our writers let their imagination change the game: you owe Cameron Bancroft an apology
On-field tensions, fights in stairwells, spectator abuse - Australia's tour of South Africa had already seen enough drama. Amid flaring tensions, Australia are looking at a tough afternoon in the field on the third day of the Cape Town Test. During the 43rd over, a sequence of Cameron Bancroft taking a small yellow object from his pocket and shoving it down his trousers is being replayed on the screen. A collective gasp echoes. Bancroft is shown explaining something to the umpires at the end of the over, following which play resumes, but reactions start pouring in.
Bancroft, captain Steven Smith and the offending object are present at the press conference. Journalists are hovering around them, trying to get a glimpse of the "ball-tampering" tool. Bancroft holds it up. "Unwrapped my new undies this morning and left the sticker on by mistake," he says. Awkward laughter fills the room.
"Caused a bad itch when I was out there in the middle. I managed to take it out and put it in my pocket, but then I realised I'd rather the itchy sticker was on than be accused of ball-tampering, so I shoved it back in. You all know about the headbutt incident. You know how naïve I am. My bad."
What could have happened next
Despite being given a clean chit, Bancroft is miffed at the premature accusations and "Captain Underpants" taunts. He slams a double-ton and carries his bat in Australia's second innings to take them to a big win. Australia go on to win the series and Bancroft's fine form continues through the year.
India are thrashed 4-0 in Australia. The series turns out to be more controversial than the one in South Africa, as Australia find new ways to get under Virat Kohli's skin. The "net-session nexus", "pavillainy"… the scandals get new names, and the fabled "line" ceases to exist. Former Australia opener Justin Langer calls for a "cultural review" and insists "elite honesty" and "elite mateship" can save the team. But Langer is discredited in Australia when it's revealed that he routinely sledges his own kids while playing UNO. Kohli immediately snaps him up as India's new coach, but things eventually go awry to the extent that the Ganguly-Chappell feud looks like kindergarten stuff.
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Sruthi Ravindranath is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo