Proteas batting maverick AB de Villiers has opened up about the ball-tampering scandal that rocked the entire cricketing fraternity during the recently held Test series between Australia and South Africa.
De Villiers stated that the entire controversy was blown out of proportion and he particularly felt sorry for former Australia skipper Steve Smith, who was handed a 12-month suspension by Cricket Australia (CA) for his involvement in this disgraceful saga.
“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. Especially Smith, who stood up thinking he was doing the right thing by his players. The way he was punished was harsh,” AB de Villiers said in an exclusive interview with Guardian.
“Wrong is wrong. Guys try to find a way to get the ball to reverse but you have to stay in the laws. Sandpaper? Sheesh, I don’t know. I have it in my bag but that’s for cleaning my bat,” he added.
Besides Smith, CA had also imposed severe punishments on former Australia vice-captain David Warner and rookie opener Cameron Bancroft. While Warner was banned for one-year after he was found to be the chief instigator in the entire saga, Bancroft was barred from international cricket for a period of 9-month.
Talking about the high-voltage Test series that had grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons, AB said: “It was rough. But it was the best series I have been a part of. There were scandals that weren’t called for but cricket-wise, the way we dominated was, well, I haven’t been part of a team that has done that to them.”
“It was seriously tough cricket but that’s how Tests should be played. 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,” he explained.
During the first Test in Durban, Warner was seen pointing and directing a verbal barrage at South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock outside the team’s dressing room, before he was restrained and taken away by his teammates. Subsequently, both the cricketers were charged for breaching the ICC Code of Conduct.
“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,” concluded De Villiers.