Australian ball-tampering: Steve Smith, David Warner & Cameron Bancroft punishments 'too harsh'
The ball-tampering bans given to Australia trio Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft contain "glaring anomalies", according to the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA).
Captain Smith and his deputy Warner were stripped of their positions and banned for a year by Cricket Australia, while Bancroft received a nine-month ban for the incident in the third Test against South Africa.
Several leading cricket figures have criticised the bans and the players' union has now queried the "severity and proportionality" of the punishments.
Smith, 28, and Bancroft, 25, have also been banned from captaining Australia for at least the next two years, while Warner, 31, will not be considered for any team leadership positions in the future.
Bancroft was due to play in England for Somerset this summer but the county announced on Thursday he would no longer be joining them following the scandal.
Chief among the ACA's concerns are:
- The punishment is higher than those of the International Cricket Council's (ICC), who fined Smith 100% of his match fee and suspended him for one game and docked Bancroft 75% of his payment and gave him three demerit points
- The bans are "disproportionate" to previous sanctions for changing the condition of the ball
- Cricket Australia's "rush to place players before the world's media" on Saturday
The ACA statement added: "It is right that these mistakes are sanctioned... that must occur in a fair and proper way.
"The national game we all love must always demonstrate standards and behaviours consistent with both the rules and the spirit of cricket, and the game must be supported by rigorous and fair processes.
"There are a number of glaring and clear anomalies in the process to date which causes the ACA to query the severity and proportionality of the proposed sanctions."
All three players have since apologised and Australia coach Darren Lehmann, who was cleared of any involvement in the incident, announced on Thursday he would stand down after the South Africa series.
'We are not sitting in a glass house thinking we are better'
The ACA says it will provide welfare and legal support to Smith, Warner and Bancroft, while Cricket Australia insists it will offer support to the trio "as best we can".
James Sutherland, the chief executive of the governing body, acknowledged it should "support them and allow them to rehabilitate and get back to playing the game they love".
His comments were echoed by a clutch of current players, including South Africa captain Faf du Plessis, who has contacted Smith in the wake of the scandal.
Du Plessis was found guilty of ball-tampering in 2016 when he was caught on camera sucking on mints before using his saliva to shine the ball against Australia.
He had previously been fined half his match fee for scuffing the ball on the zip of his trousers against Pakistan in 2013.
"I did send him a text to say that he will get through this and he must just be strong. He appreciated the message," said Du Plessis, who will lead his country in the fourth Test which starts on Friday.
"It has been a crazy week. I feel sorry for Smith and feel compassion for what he is going through - he is one of the good guys.
"He is in a bad place but he has taken responsibility and we are not sitting in a glass house thinking that we are better than them. It was a mistake that was made and they must move on now."
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'They are human beings; they need support' - analysis
Former England cricketer Ryan Sidebottom on BBC Radio 5 Live:
You look at the psychological and mental illness aspects that are surrounded by all sport and yes I really do [think it is an issue]. Hopefully Cricket Australia are going to work with them and look after them because their psychological state is not going to be ideal.
Middlesex and England batsman Nick Compton, who took a break from cricket in 2016:
They do earn a considerable amount of money but money aside they are human beings and their job has been taken away from them. I think it is going to be a challenging period for them and I'm interested in the support they get to make sure they can come back and be the world-class players they are.
The Australian Cricketers' Association:
The ACA continues to provide welfare and legal support to all players.
This welfare support will be critical at a time where the network and environment of each of the three players must play an active role in their rehabilitation.
The view from the cricket world on Twitter
Former England wicketkeeper Matt Prior: "Fair play Bancroft and Smith taking it head on and fronting up. That was hard to watch and can't imagine what they're going through. People make mistakes but being able to own up and take responsibility takes guts."
Ex-South African batsman Herschelle Gibbs: "Hard scenes watching the interviews. Having been through it all, take it on the chin and live with the consequences but remain true to yourself."
Former Australia bowler Mitchell Johnson: "Tough to watch Cameron & Steve go through the two statements they just made. They will learn from this and be better in the future I'm sure."
Ex-England batsman Mark Butcher: "Just watched Smith presser. Hope everybody has had their pound of flesh now."
Former India batsman Sachin Tendulkar: "Time for all of us to take a step back and give them some space."
Ex-Pakistan bowler Shoaib Akhtar: "Gutted to see Steve Smith breaking down. And also the way people are treating him. It's sad, leave that poor chap alone now."
Former Australia batsman Michael Di Venuto: "Absolutely shattering watching these press conferences. Not hard to tell what type of people these guys are. Cricket Australia are losing some great people through one poor choice."
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