Shane Warne feels Cricket Australia (CA) has erred in its response to the cheating scandal, suggesting the governing body caved to public “hysteria”.
CA was under immense pressure to come down hard on Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft for their roles in the ball-tampering ploy that marred the third Test in South Africa.
Even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called for a decisive and emphatic response to what he termed a disgrace.
Captain Smith and vice-captain Warner were stripped of their leadership positions and banned for 12 months, while Bancroft was suspended for nine months.
Warne, who was forced to undertake a 12-month road to redemption in 2003 after testing positive for a banned substance, feels CA was too harsh.
“Their actions were indefensible, and they need to be severely punished,” Warne wrote on his official Facebook page.
“But I don’t think a one year ban is the answer.
“My punishment would have been to miss the fourth Test match, a huge fine, and be sacked as captain and vice-captain.
“There is no way you can condone it … but the jump to hysteria is something that has elevated the offence beyond what they actually did.
“Maybe we’re at a point where the punishment just might not fit the crime.”
CA chief executive James Sutherland admitted his board canvassed a series of punishments.
“There were considerations and views around the table that were all over the place. Higher sanctions for all three players, lower sanctions for all three players,” Sutherland said.
“You need to talk openly and share views on balance.
“We’ve landed at something that we believe is appropriate, commensurate.”
South Africa opener Hashim Amla took no delight in the enforced omissions of Australia’s shamed trio.
“When something like this happens, you definitely feel sympathy for the person it happened to,” Amla told reporters ahead of the fourth Test, which starts in Johannesburg on Friday.
“The three Australians made a mistake and have had to pay the price for it. We all make mistakes, we’re not perfect.”
Warne, who took a record 708 Test wickets for his country, and Amla weren’t alone in expressing sympathy, particularly when it came to Smith.
“Steve Smith I think is a good guy who made a huge mistake. He needed punishing but I think this is too harsh,” former England captain Michael Vaughan posted on Twitter.