New Zealand captain Kane Williamson defended Australia duo David Warner and Steve Smith, saying that the one-year ban for ball-tampering was excessive, the Herald Sun reported. He was speaking ahead of the three-match Test series in Australia starting on Wednesday in Perth.

“It [the ball-tampering plan] crossed the line, and the punishment was severe,” Williamson was quoted as saying. “But it was heavy character assassination, and largely unfair. They made a mistake and they put their hands up,” he added.

Williamson and Warner were teammates at Indian Premier League franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad. “They’re not bad people. They just pushed the boundaries and got a bit caught up with it in that moment.”

New Zealand come into the series on the back of a 1-0 series win at home to England. Warner and Smith made triumphant returns following their bans. Recently, the left-hander smashed a triple hundred against Pakistan while Smith broke a slew of records in England during the Ashes with his run-scoring feats.

“They’ve come back and it is truly great to have those guys back in the game of cricket and leading the way,” Williamson said.

“They would’ve learnt a lot about it. For us, it’s not something you’d obviously wish to be involved in, in any way whatsoever. You’re always competing hard and obviously trying hard to take wickets. It was an unfortunate event.”