‘Never, ever condoned any sort of cheating’

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Former Australia assistant coach David Saker has distanced himself from last year’s Newlands ball-tampering scandal, saying that the only kind of work on the ball he had condoned was to have team members throw it into the ground to aid reverse swing.

Saker, who after successful stints with England and Victoria was named Darren Lehmann‘s assistant in 2016, resigned at the end of this year’s home summer and has cited a loss of passion and enthusiasm for the task as the reason for separating ways from Lehmann’s successor Justin Langer.

As part of his severance agreement with Cricket Australia, Saker signed non-disclosure terms, due to expire on September 19 after the conclusion of this year’s Ashes series. But on Wednesday, he spoke generally about the impact that the scandal had on his work around the team, after he had been lauded for his work with England on reverse swing.

“New coach came in, things changed quite a bit, and I probably wasn’t as passionate as I was before that”

“You’re sort of looking at yourself, saying ‘what could have I done to make sure that didn’t happen?’,” Saker told The Age. “It was really devastating, not just for me but for everyone involved. I’m sure that for a while there it affected the way I was around the group but I’ve moved on from that.

“We’ve never, ever condoned any sort of cheating. Obviously, teams throw the ball into the ground, most teams do that. That’s pretty much the way you go about it.”

Langer and Saker did not always see things the same way as a coaching duo in the wake of Lehmann’s exit, with the former assistant saying that on reflection he needed time away from the game and was now looking to re-launch his career, possibly as the new head coach of Melbourne Stars.

“Under Boof [Lehmann] particularly, we won an Ashes and had some really good series wins, so that was good. There were obviously some frustrating times after South Africa,” Saker said. “New coach came in, things changed quite a bit, and I probably wasn’t as passionate as I was before that.

“On reflection, it’s probably a good thing that I got out, just refreshed myself. As I said, I’m ready to go again. I enjoyed my time with the Australian cricket team but I think it was time for me to move on.”

Looking ahead to the Ashes, Saker said the balance of the Australian team would be vital, and pointedly noted that Mitchell Starc’s bowling may only work in a bowling attack in English conditions that has five options rather than four.

“They’ve just got to be smart. Over there it’s not all about air speed, it’s about making sure you bowl the ball in the right areas,” he said. “It’ll be a tough job for the selectors, but the beauty of it is they’ve got five or six fast bowlers, and the world’s best off-spinner, so they’re pretty well-placed to win the Ashes.

“The best scenario would be if they had a [Marcus] Stoinis playing really good cricket, or a Mitchell Marsh playing really good cricket, and do some really good bowling, you could maybe play Starc as an impact bowler.

“When you’ve only got four bowlers, you can’t really do that. You’ve got to have all four doing their job. If you’ve got five it’s a little bit different. It’s going to come down to how they set up their team.”

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