“There’s a line that we don’t cross and at times we probably went pretty close to it in this Test”

Tim Paine had commented after the Quinton de Kock - David Warner spat that rode headlines for over a week. To state that the Australians were brutally bashed for their comments would be an understatement. Responses ranged from “don't dish it out if you can't take it” to personal jibes at the Aussie players.

That they went out of their way to crucify de Kock and blame Kagiso Rabada for an incident later showcased that the Aussies did not have it in them to take back what they give out.

When David Warner was abused by a spectator at Newlands, Darren Lehmann went on the rampaging, showcasing a holier-than-thou attitude.

“I think they (South African fans) have been disgraceful. You’re talking about abuse of various players and their families... It’s not on at a cricket ground anywhere around the world, not just here,” Lehmann was quoted as saying by a South African sports website. You can have the banter, that’s fine. But they’ve gone too far here. It’s been poor”, Lehmann said.

Two days later, the Aussie coach was nowhere to be seen as cameras zoomed in on Cameron Bancroft using an external substance (later revealed to be a yellow tape to pick up granules and rub on the ball) to aid reverse swing and eke out an undue advantage.

In a video that went viral within minutes, Bancroft is seen rubbing the ball with the substance vigorously before placing it in the pocket. Darren Lehmann then instructs Peter Handscomb to ask Bancroft to hide the object and sure enough he does that and produced a black cloth when the umpires intervened.

But with clear-cut evidence everywhere, Australia had little choice before them but to accept they were cheating.

A few months back in a press conference, Indian skipper, Virat Kohli came close to calling Steven Smith a cheat after a DRS fiasco saw him checking with his teammates in the dressing room before reviewing.

“Is that word ‘cheating’?”, Kohli was asked and the skipper stopped short of saying so by claiming : “I didn’t say it, you did.”

Smith's regretful actions then atleast had people divided in opinion. But at Newlands, he left no stone unturned as the whole world turned against him post a press conference where he hung his head in shame.

“The leadership group knew about it, we spoke about it at lunch. I am not proud of what has happened. It is not in the spirit of the game, my integrity and the integrity of the team has been damaged, and rightfully so. It’s not on and it won’t happen again, I can promise you,” Smith said, apparently regretful of his actions.

That the Aussies plotted and planned this over lunch and not instinctively aggravates their sin. Smith, one whom the younger generation looks up to for his Bradman-esque record, has been crossing the “line” far too often.

The intervention by Cricket Australia and ICC came soon. ICC banned Smith from the next Test match while a bigger punishment from Cricket Australia is being awaited. Warner, also part of the so called “leadership group”, and Smith will serve whatever punishment CA metes out to them.

In the aftermath of the scandalous episode the cricket world is in absolute shock. Only few days back the same Australians had ridiculed the decision to revoke Rabada's ban for a sin much, much lesser in intensity than what they committed.

The audacity to pull off such a stunt with a slew of cameras tracing each and every movement makes the act even more heinous. The fact that Smith chose to make young Cameron Bancroft the scapegoat further dampens his captaincy credentials.

“Unfortunately I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Bancroft said at the press conference. The price he would pay would, in all likelihood, be much more than the others in the leadership group. After all, Bancroft does not have the aura or the runs of a Warner or Smith. Perhaps another reason the leaders chose him for the task. The more you think of it, the more you flinch.

“The game needs to have a hard look at itself,” said Dave Richardson, the ICC’s chief executive. “In recent weeks, we have seen incidents of ugly sledging, send-offs, dissent against umpires’ decisions, a walk-off, ball tampering and some ordinary off-field behavior.”

Perhaps the Aussies need a new perspective too. It is unfathomable that Smith would return to skipper the side for he has lost every ounce of respect even amongst his own countrymen. David Warner, whose temper issues and rage have often been the subject of heated debates, is a member of the leadership group too and wouldn't be the frontrunner to replace Smith. Paine captained the remaining of a shambolic Test for the Aussies - one they lost by 322 runs - but would he be the long-term skipper?

Australia clearly have no one in sight and seem to treading along the wrong side of things. Perhaps, this incident would change their approach to the game. After all, the World rejoiced and gave it back to them the moment they were caught. Now that the others have a grip on Australia's throat, they aren't letting go easy. Why would they? The Aussies have dished it out for so long. Now, it's their turn to face the music.