Cape Town - Star Proteas batsman AB de Villiers reveals that he feels sorry for the three Australian cricketers involved in the ball-tampering controversy.
Former Australian captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and opening batsman Cameron Bancroft were all banned by Cricket Australia (CA) for the scandal which erupted during the third Test between South Africa and Australia at Newlands last month.
Smith and Warner received one-year bans, while Bancroft received a nine-month suspension.
De Villiers, who is currently playing in the Indian Premier League for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, revealed in an interview with the Guardian that the scandal surrounding the Test series was "uncalled for".
"It was rough," De Villiers told the Guardian.
"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.
Prior to the ball-tampering incident, in the first Test in Durban Warner and Quinton de Kock were involved in a stairwell spat that got personal.
"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," said De Villiers.
The 34-year-old sympathised with Smith, Warner and Bancroft and believed that the bans handed by CA were harsh.
"It was blown up massively," stated De Villiers of the worldwide response.
"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."