CAPE TOWN – Banned former Australian captain Steve Smith was given a police escort through OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday as media and fans surrounded the World’s No 1 batsman as he began his journey back home.
Smith was banned for 12 months by Cricket Australia earlier in the day for his role in what is now “SandpaperGate” after the investigation found that Cameron Bancroft had used sandpaper to tamper with the ball in the third Test against the Proteas at Newlands on Saturday.
Bancroft, acting under instruction from deposed vice-captain David Warner, was suspended for nine months, while Warner is also out of the game for a year.
Cricket Australia found that Smith did nothing to stop the ball-tampering from happening despite having knowledge of the plot, while he was also found to have made misleading public comments about the matter.
Meanwhile, legendary former Australian spinner Shane Warne feels that the bans meted out to the disgraced trio may be a case “where the punishment might not fit the crime”.
In a column for the Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne, Warne said he was “shocked and angered by what we saw in Cape Town”, and that the actions of the trio concerned was “pre-meditated cheating that is embarrassing”.
But Warne believes that the sanctions were perhaps too harsh.
“But the jump to hysteria is something that has elevated the offence beyond what they actually did, and maybe we’re at a point where the punishment just might not fit the crime,” Warne wrote.
“The hysteria has gone worldwide, and everyone that dislikes the way the Australian cricket team has played, and over the past five or so years there have been rumblings about the way this team has gone about things, have been given the opportunity to lay the boots in.
“There are those countries that don’t like Australia, don’t like individuals in the team, and there has been a build up of hate which has exploded and created this tornado of hysteria.
“But what are the players guilty of? Cheating via ball-tampering and bringing the game into disrepute.
“Their opposing captain in this series, South Africa’s Faf du Plessis, has been charged with the offence twice, and opening bowler Vernon Philander once. The list of players who have been charged with ball tampering is long and contains some of the biggest names in the game, like Sachin Tendulkar and Mike Atherton.
“Then there’s the idea of pre-meditated cheating. But are there levels of ball tampering, or is it just ball-tampering?
“Is putting a mint in your pocket so you can shine a ball on the field pre-meditated cheating, or just ball-tampering? What about putting sunscreen on the ball? You either ball tamper or you don’t.
“For that reason, I don’t think at the moment talk of the punishment is fitting the crime, i.e. a 12-month ban.”