'Time heals all wounds' - Khawaja and Starc insist Australia have moved on from sandpaper scandal

By Sports Desk December 15, 2022

Australian duo Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Starc insist the side has moved on from the 2018 sandpaper scandal that rocked the team last time they met South Africa in a Test series.

Australia and the Proteas will lock horns for the first time since the fateful 2018 tour of South Africa in a three-game Test series starting on Saturday at the Gabba in Brisbane.

The 2018 scandal rocked Australian cricket, leading to Steve Smith and David Warner's 12-month bans, along with the loss of their leadership positions. Head coach Darren Lehmann stepped aside, with Justin Langer instilled in the aftermath to restore the team's reputation.

Khawaja was part of the side for the third Test in Cape Town in 2018 when the ball tampering saga emerged but said those ghosts had been banished.

"It honestly hasn't been and I'm being genuine," Khawaja told reporters on Thursday when asked if the sandpaper scandal had been discussed internally. "It's because time heals all wounds.

"The guys have come so far from there, both as individual players, but also as a team.

"Everyone's got so many different things going on in their life from where they were four years ago. That actually gave guys a lot of perspective.

"Australian cricket, both as a whole and as individual as players, we were probably at rock bottom right there."

Starc was also part of that Australian side in Cape Town, but echoed Khawaja's sentiments.

"I think both teams have probably evolved since," Starc said. "It's been an evolution of our group across the formats.

"We're very happy, chilled, relaxed, [in an] enjoyable environment and hopefully it's going to show in our cricket and result in a positive performance in these three Tests."

Faf du Plessis, who was the South Africa captain during the 2018 series, fueled the flames ahead of the series with an extract in his newly released book, accusing Smith of "milking" physical contact with Kagiso Rabada in the first Test of that tour.

The 2018 series was full of intensity, with the Smith-Rabada clash one of many heated incidents leading up to the fateful sandpaper scandal.

"This episode has almost been forgotten against the backdrop of what the series still had up its sleeve, or more accurately, down its trousers," Du Plessis wrote.

"They brushed shoulders during one of KG’s overs but Smith milked it like a football player. We knew that KG was one demerit point away from a suspension."

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