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Aussie trio cheating punishment doesn't fit the crime, says Warne

By Andy Sims

Former spinner Shane Warne believes the Australia ball-tampering scandal has been blown out of proportion and the punishments handed to Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft are excessive.

Cricket Australia have handed skipper Smith and vice-captain Warner 12-month suspensions from international and domestic cricket following an investigation.

Bancroft, who was caught on camera attempting to use sandpaper to change the condition of the ball during the third Test against South Africa, has been banned for nine months.

And ex-Australia international Warne, who was handed a one-year suspension in 2003 after testing positive for a banned substance, says the reaction has gone over the top.

"To hear that the Australian cricket team had been involved in premeditated cheating is something that is embarrassing. There is no way you can condone it," he said on his official Facebook page. "We are all so hurt and angry and maybe we weren't so sure how to react. We'd just never seen it before.

"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.

"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 boot in.

"Their actions were indefensible, and they need to be severely punished. But I don't think a one-year ban is the answer."

Warne, who took 708 Test wickets for his country, also revealed the sanctions he would have implemented.

"My punishment would have been to miss the fourth Test match, a huge fine, and be sacked as captain and vice-captain," he added. "But they should still be allowed to play."

Former England skipper Michael Vaughan agrees that the punishments were too severe, although he believes CA had no other option than to make an example of the trio.

He tweeted: "Many think the bans are harsh (me included) but the precedent has now been set by CA. They realised they had to send a message across the whole game.

"With what these players will lose out on I am sure the shockwave will do its job."

Ex-England batsman Jonathan Trott has seemingly made his feelings known about the downfall of Warner.

Warner was critical of Trott's decision to leave England's Ashes tour in 2013 with a long-standing stress-related condition, labelling him "poor and weak".

Trott responded to the news of the ban for Warner, who was the ringleader behind the ball-tampering saga, by tweeting: "Goodbye David".

CA chief executive James Sutherland said that if further allegations of ball-tampering were made they would be investigated.

Sutherland told a press conference: "If there are credible allegations to the contrary, we have the responsibility to address them, though the investigation thus far is that it does appear to be an isolated incident."

Nevertheless, CA also revealed a review into the culture of the Australian cricket team, brought into sharp focus in the wake of the scandal, will be published in due course.

Batsman Warner, a controversial figure throughout his Test career, will never be considered for a team leadership position in the future, CA added, while Smith and Bancroft will not be considered for such roles until 12 months after their bans end.

Among the charges Smith (28) faced was "knowledge of a potential plan to attempt to artificially alter the condition of the ball".

Bancroft (25), Warner's opening partner and playing in only his eighth Test, was charged with "knowledge of the existence of, and being party to, the plan to attempt to artificially alter the condition of the ball using sandpaper", and "carrying out instructions to attempt to artificially alter the condition of the ball".

Smith and Warner have also been banned from taking part in this year's Indian Premier League, although the England and Wales Cricket Board are not taking a view at this stage - Bancroft is Somerset's overseas player for the coming season.

All three players, sent home from South Africa, will be permitted to play club cricket to maintain links with the cricket community.

In addition, all three players will be required to undertake 100 hours of voluntary service in community cricket.

Meanwhile, Sutherland offered an explanation for coach Darren Lehmann's walkie-talkie conversation with 12th man Peter Handscomb, moments before the latter entered the field of play to talk to Bancroft.

An investigation led by CA's head of integrity Iain Roy found that Lehmann had been unaware of plot.

Sutherland added: "In Darren's defence, I want to clarify that matter. He sent a message to say, 'What in the hell is going on?'. That was found to be the case through Iain's investigation."

Matt Renshaw, Glenn Maxwell and Joe Burns have been called up as replacements ahead of tomorrow's fourth and final Test in Johannesburg.

Coach Lehmann apologised for the incident and said he fears for the mental health of the three players involved.

"The players have made a grave mistake but they are not bad people. There is a human side to this," said the 48-year-old.

"I hope people will give them a second chance. I worry about the three guys mentally."

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