MUMBAI: When the mighty Aussies boarded the flight to South Africa this summer, they also promised competitive cricket amid verbal slurs and flying tempers. But the entire ball-tampering saga, or the sandpaper-gate — as fancied by the media — among other things, exposed the farcical side of the Australian cricket team.

Tampering is a common sight in world cricket. It happens almost everywhere, but then, cricket is the national sport of Australia. The punishment, as expected, is beyond the ICC.

The Aussies sent down pointers before the start of the series. They were up to something. It started with the stump mic volume debate. They knew they would be chirping but Steve Smith and the ‘leadership group’ (whoever they are) wanted to confine the chat within the 22 yards – an example of extreme mental strength and cunning nature to outdo the opposition.

Not to forget, they wanted to fire up South Africa pacer Kagiso Rabada to add to his demerit points knowing that the youngster is a temperamental character.

What happened next turned their whole attitude into a farce.

Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland is now eyeing an entire revamp in the culture, now that the ball-tampering incident in the third Test — involving skipper Steve Smith, his deputy David Warner and young opener Cameron Bancroft — reached the Prime Minister’s ears.

“The clear focus will be on re-engaging with Australian cricket fans and the Australian public to rebuild respect and pride. Also to place on record my strong support for the sentiments that the ICC CEO David Richardson has expressed about the need to raise the standards generally. I completely agree with the ICC and member countries, member boards, including CA need to define more clearly what is expected of players and then enforce the standards in a consistent fashion. I agree all member countries including Australia need to show more accountability for their team's conduct. Winning is important but not at the cost of expense of the laws or the spirit of the game,” said Sutherland, who also clarified that head coach Darren Lehmann wasn’t involved in the entire episode.

“This issue goes beyond the technical nature of the offences and various codes of conduct. It is about the integrity and reputation of Australian Cricket and Australian sport,” he added.

What happens to Smith, Warner and Bancroft? The seniors have been handed a 12-month ban; nine months for the youngster.

Lehmann said, “There is a human side to this. They are young men and I hope people will give them a second chance. Their health and well-being is important to us. I worry about the three guys immensely. We love all of our players and they are going through a really tough time.”

If Mohammad Amir of Pakistan could make a comeback after a crime as grave as fixing, this is only a level 2 offence in the ICC books, where the penalty varies from one-game ban to 75 to 100 per cent of match fee deduction.

What the offenders may not have thought is the integrity of Cricket Australia.

On reaching Sydney, Warner finally woke up. “Mistakes have been made which have damaged cricket. I apologise for my part and take responsibility for it. I understand the distress this has caused the sport and its fans. It's a stain on the game we all love and I have loved since I was a boy.

“I need to take a deep breath and spend time with my family, friends and trusted advisers. You will hear from me in a few days.”

To new beginnings, as they say.