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South Africa superstar AB de Villiers has admitted that he feels sorry for the Australian trio of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, even though they were in the wrong for their involvement in the ball tampering scandal that shocked the cricketing world.
It is understood that Warner played a leading role in the scandal, which occurred on the third day of the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town, as he told Bancroft to alter the condition of the ball with sandpaper.
As a result, Warner and Smith were banned for 12 months by Cricket Australia, while Bancroft was suspended for nine months. Smith also won’t be allowed to captain Australia for two years, while Warner won’t be considered for leadership roles in the future.
“It was blown up massively. Yes, it is a serious matter, but it was taken to a level where it really hurt them individually and I felt sorry for them,” De Villiers told The Guardian. “Especially Smith, who stood up thinking he was doing the right thing by his players. The way he was punished was harsh.
“Wrong is wrong. Guys try to find a way to get the ball to reverse but you have to stay in the laws. Sandpaper? [he chuckles] Sheesh, I don’t know. I have it in my bag but that’s for cleaning my bat.”
Prior to the ball tampering scandal, the series between South Africa and Australia was plagued with off field and on-field incidents as Warner and Proteas wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock got into a heated dispute while on the way to the dressing rooms.
Australia spinner Nathan Lyon also dropped the ball on De Villiers after running him out, which was seen as disrespectful numerous members of the cricketing community.
“It was seriously tough cricket but that’s how Tests should be played,” De Villiers said. “There was all this talk about ‘the line’ and you don’t want to get too personal. But letting a player know there is a series on the line and he is about to lose it for his country, that is part of the game. That’s what we did.
“I felt they got quite personal. Although we had an instance in Durban where one of our players [De Kock] did too … that’s a long story. But overall, I loved the toughness of the cricket played. It’s just the rest that was uncalled for.”
Last year, De Villiers opted to skip a majority of Test series in order to prolong his career. But, the fact that he participated in the Indian Premier League (IPL) did not sit well with some people.
While De Villiers also wanted to spend time with his family, he opened up about how difficult it was to constantly be on the road.
However, De Villiers is currently representing the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, but he openly admitted that the tournament is financially beneficial for himself and his family.
“I got nailed for that. It was horrible but this is a tournament I cannot miss,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and lie to you; financially it is just too good for us as a family. Seven weeks away is not easy and they will come out at some stage. It’s not ideal but it has to be done.
“English and Australian players are paid well, so it’s not always a must to come over. For the rest it is something you have to fit in. If you’re working in South African rands, it’s nice to get a few dollars in the bank.”