Cameron Bancroft has taken the first step on his long road to cricketing redemption, winning a reprieve to play club cricket while serving his nine-month Cricket Australia ban.
The 25-year-old was sensationally banned for his role in the ball tampering scandal, in which he used sandpaper to scratch the ball during the third Test of this summer’s South Africa tour.
Former captain Steve Smith and deputy David Warner were also banned for 12 months for their role in the incident.
Under the WA Premier Cricket rule, any Cricket Australia ban automatically extended to club level, which meant Bancroft would not have been able to return to cricket until December.
That was different to the New South Wales grade rules, which allowed Smith and Warner to play while serving their bans.
However Monday night’s decision by the West Australian District Cricket Council has granted Bancroft an exemption to play grade cricket in Perth next summer.
WACA chief executive Christina Matthews said the issue was “strongly debated” but ultimately approved, and congratulated the council on its decision.
“They were put in an awkward position by the sanctions in the first place and a lack of understanding of the rules that applied across premier cricket in Australia, but it is good news for Cameron,” Ms Matthews said.
“Cameron more than anything wants to play cricket here.
“He would have the opportunity if it hadn’t been approved to go interstate but I don’t think that would have sat well with him.”
Bancroft faced the prospect of moving interstate to play club cricket if the exemption was not granted, with the New South Wales Cricket Association saying it would welcome him.
He could also have moved to the Northern Territory.
County club Surrey also reportedly expressed interest in the suspended batsman’s services.
Bancroft’s previous county contract with Somerset was ripped up in the wake of the scandal, despite the ban not preventing him, or Smith and Warner, from playing overseas.
Warner and Smith both had their multi-million-dollar Indian Premier League contracts cancelled.
WA and the Perth Scorchers retained Bancroft on a list of contracted players despite his ban, while recently appointed Australian coach Justin Langer said he would welcome the banned three back into the national fold, once their bans were complete.
Bancroft is still ineligible for domestic and international cricket.
He is also required to serve 100 hours of community service as part of his suspension.