New Delhi: Former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting said on Thursday he was shocked by the ball-tampering scandal that has engulfed the national team but defended a culture he insisted sought to play "hard" and "fair".
Ponting, coach of Indian Premier League (IPL) side Delhi Daredevils, said talk of an over aggressive attitude in the Australian dressing room had been blown out of proportion following bans imposed on Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.
"This is the first time I have actually answered a single question about what's happened in South Africa over the last couple of weeks," Ponting, Australia's Test captain from 2004-2008, told reporters in New Delhi ahead of the start of the IPL season.
"At the end of the day as a past player and as a former captain I was obviously quite shocked to see what actually took place out there on the field.
"The pleasing thing to me is that all this issue is starting to come to an end," he said, referring to Smith and Warner's acceptance of one year bans.
Both have given tearful apologies for plotting to tamper with the ball in the third Test in South Africa last month. Bancroft was filmed using sandpaper to scuff the ball in Cape Town.
On top of the player bans, current coach Darren Lehmann has quit even though he was cleared of any involvement.
While an overhaul of Australian cricket is likely, Ponting defended their cricketing culture, saying the team have always played hard and fair. Australia twice won the World Cup when he was playing.
"We in Australia like to play the game hard and we like to play the game fair and our fans expect Australian players play that way," said Ponting.
"I think the reaction back in Australia was as big as it was because I think the Australian public felt the Australian players hadn't played the game in a fair way.
"The cultural issue for me is what is a really interesting thing. Because when you wound the clock back just a couple of months when Australia won the Ashes there was no talk about cultural problems or issues whatsoever.
"So I think a lot of times these cultural things get blown out of proportion and get spoken about a lot when the reality of the dressing room is completely different from what is actually spoken about all the time," he said.