Glenn Maxwell says the Australian team felt Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were treated like criminals during the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, and the ordeal left them shellshocked.
Maxwell, who was one of three players rushed out to join the tour before the final Test in Johannesburg after the trio were sent home, said it had been extremely hard for the young squad to witness what happened to their teammates.
It was particularly tough for them to watch the televised emotional apologies from Smith and Bancroft on arrival in Australia, and chaotic scenes when Smith was booed and called a cheat while being escorted through Johannesburg airport.
“I think the way they saw it, it was obviously beaten up a fair bit and they’ve seen a couple of their mates treated like criminals,” he told Melbourne’s Radio SEN on Wednesday.
“That is a hard thing for you to watch as a teammate, and to what they went through, especially Steve Smith at the airport, that was a hard thing for everyone to watch.
“To then try and get yourself ready for a game of cricket a day later was extremely difficult, and I certainly didn’t envy their position at all. It was an extremely tough time for that whole playing group.”
The fallout had a big effect on the team as they slumped to a 492-run defeat in the final Test.
‘Hard for a young group’
All-rounder Maxwell arrived along with opening batsmen Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns as the replacements and he thought he might be able to provide some energy and be a positive influence around the team.
But he admitted it had been harder than he imagined.
“I had thoughts of what it could be like, and I hoped I could’ve provided something different for the group when I got over there, whether it be energy, or just a happy face around the group to try and cheer them up,” he said.
“The enormity struck me at the end of the Test match when Boof [coach Darren Lehmann] had his goodbye speech and spoke about a few players in the group that he hoped could lead the group going forward.
“I think that’s when it all hit me and how hard it was for this young group.”
A tearful Lehmann quit in the wake of the scandal, staying on only for the fourth and last Test before departing.
His decision followed 12-month bans given to then captain Smith and his deputy Warner for the roles they played in the plot to cheat during the third Test in Cape Town.
Bancroft was banned for nine months for his part in the affair.
Post-tampering era begins
Meanwhile, fast bowlers were the winners as Australia’s post ball-tampering era began on Wednesday with a heavily revamped list of nationally contracted players, minus the suspended Steve Smith and David Warner.
The list of 20 men’s players offered deals by Cricket Australia for the 2018-19 season on the basis of their performances over the past 12 months included five first-timers.
Speedsters Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson and Andrew Tye made the cut, along with all-rounder Marcus Stoinis and wicketkeeper Alex Carey.
New Test captain Tim Paine and batsman Shaun Marsh rejoined the list, while spinner Adam Zampa, pacemen Jackson Bird and James Pattinson, all-rounder Hilton Cartwright and wicketkeeper Matthew Wade dropped off.
Chadd Sayers, who has played Test cricket in the past six months, missed out.
The minimum value of a contract for the upcoming season is A$286,000 (US$222,000).
With the next World Cup falling within the contract period, selectors placed a strong emphasis on the limited overs formats in selecting players.
“This period is set to include a significant amount of limited-overs cricket, including the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England and Wales,” said national selector Trevor Hohns.
“For that reason, there has been a bit of a focus in this contracting period on white-ball cricket, as we look ahead to trying to win back-to-back World Cups.”