Australia coach Darren Lehmann has urged people to give Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft a second chance after the ball-tampering scandal broke at their ongoing tour of South Africa.
On the third day of the third Test between Australia and South Africa in Cape Town, Bancroft was found using a sandpaper to tamper the ball. The opener admitted to wrongdoing during the press conference after the end of the day's play.
Smith also revealed he was also aware of the plan in advance as he orchestrated the incident. The International Cricket Council (ICC) handed the Australia captain a one-match ban. Bancroft was fined 75 percent of his match fee and received three demerit points.
However, Cricket Australia handed the 28-year-old and Warner a 12-month ban, while Bancroft has been banned for nine months from playing domestic and international cricket.
Lehmann has raised concern over Smith, Warner and Bancroft's health and well-being after the trio were given a "serious sanctions".
"Like all of Australia, we are extremely disappointed and as a team we know we have let so many people down and for that, I am truly sorry," Lehmann explained, as quoted by Wisden India.
"The players involved have been handed down very serious sanctions and they knew they must face the consequences. They have made a grave mistake, but they are not bad people. As a coach, you feel for them as people.
"They are hurting. I feel for them and their families. I hope that in all this the media and the fans don't forget that.
"There is a human side to this. They have made a mistake, as everyone – including myself – has made mistakes in the past. These are young men and I hope people will give them a second chance.
"Their health and well-being is extremely important to us. I acknowledge James' comments into the review of the culture of the team and the way we play our cricket and we are all open and ready to assist in this process."
Earlier reports suggested Lehmann was also aware of the incident and thus, he would be allowed to step down as Australia's coach. However, Cricket Australia chief executive officer James Sutherland cleared the confusion surrounding the former left-handed batsman's immediate future.
Meanwhile, Smith and Warner will no longer be eligible to play in the 2018 Indian Premier League (IPL) after the ball-tampering incident. Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad will be provided with an opportunity to find a replacement for the duo.