Australian bowling great Shane Warne says Cricket Australian needs to earn back the public’s trust after it was left disappointed and “embarrassed” by the ball-tampering scandal.
But speaking to Leigh Sales in a wide ranging interview due to air on ABC’s 7.30 on Tuesday night, the prolific offspinner said the suspended players were hard done by in their punishment.
Warne also criticised the devaluing of grassroots cricket and the interstate Sheffield Shield.
“I think the wider cricket community thought, ‘Australians don’t do that, that’s not the way Australians play their sport’,” he told 7.30 host Leigh Sales.
“They play it hard, they play it tough, they’re uncompromising, but they’re fair’,” he said of the perception of Australian cricketers,” he said.
“So it was really disappointing to see [the ball tampering]. [Cricket Australia] have to earn the respect back of the cricketing public, and Australian public, and all the cricket community.”
Australia’s most prolific wicket taker faced his own crisis of credibility with the Australian cricket public in February 2003 when he was banned for 12 months after testing positive to a banned diuretic.
Warne said he was no longer close enough to the game to say whether the current culture of the sport was partly to blame for the incident, which resulted in lengthy suspensions for captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft.
But he was quick to defend former Smith’s character, saying Australians were sometimes too quick to judge.
“I will say this about Steve Smith. Steve Smith is a good person, he made a silly mistake, and an error in judgment. I think we’re, in this country, sometimes too quick to hang people,” Warne said.
“I don’t think the punishment fitted the crime. A 12-month ban for that equated to about an $8-$10 million fine,” he said.
Warne said he thought they three players were “very, very hard done by and it was a very harsh penalty”.
“But having said that, we hated [the ball tampering], and we didn’t like it, and [cricketers] have to earn our respect back.”
Warne also said Australian cricket is struggling and needs to return to its grassroots foundations.
“I think we’re struggling, [we’re] pretty ordinary at the moment with Australian cricket,” Warne said.
“I think in any business you need the foundation to be strong, and the foundation of Australian cricket has always been grassroots cricket, club cricket, and first class cricket, Sheffield Shield cricket.
Warne said there were not enough first class cricketers getting involved in school cricket and “inspiring people and talking to young boys and girls to say cricket’s a great game”.
“Yes, they’re busy … but you’ve got to find time and you have to find a way to make sure that school programs have opportunities for boys and girls,” he said.
Warne said he would like to see first class cricketers playing club cricket and international players playing Shield cricket.
“They’ve got to do it, just have to do it for the longevity and success of Test cricket in Australia and for Australian cricket to remain strong,” he said.