Williamson goes in to bat for Steve Smith and David Warner
KANE Williamson has gone in to bat for Steve Smith and David Warner, adamant the sandpaper scandal fallout was extreme and unfair.
The New Zealand captain said he was thrilled cricket had welcomed back the two Australians after they were hit with 12-month suspensions stemming from the ball tampering in Cape Town.
"It (the ball-tampering plan) crossed the line, and the punishment was severe," Williamson told the Herald Sun.
"But it was heavy character assassination, and largely unfair. They made a mistake and they put their hands up.
"They're not bad people. They just pushed the boundaries and got a bit caught up with it in that moment.
"They would've learnt a lot about it. For us, it's not something you'd obviously wish to be involved in, in anyway whatsoever.
"You're always competing hard and obviously trying hard to take wickets. It was an unfortunate event without a doubt."
Williamson, 29, is a teammate of Warner's in the Indian Premier League and replaced him as Sunrisers Hyderabad captain because of the ban.
The pair have exchanged text messages this month as they prepare for battle.
The Kiwi said it would've been a "huge shame" if two of Australia's modern batting greats were lost to the game.
"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.
As two of the best three batsmen on the planet prepare to face off in Perth on Thursday, Smith's robot-like concentration is the envy of Williamson.
"If you asked Steve Smith (how he stays concentrated), you'd get a very elaborate answer, he's certainly the master of that," Williamson said.
"His focus and appetite and hunger have just been incredible to follow and watch. The focus for me is staying in the moment and staying focused on your plan as long as you can."
Smith and Williamson have played five Tests against each other and boast almost identical numbers in those matches.
Williamson has crunched 570 runs while Smith has scored 543. Both have made two centuries, Smith scoring 138 twice and Williamson reaching 140 and 166.
Smith battles insomnia during Test matches. The master batsman is often prescribed sleeping tablets.
He said recently some of his best innings for Australia had followed no sleep.
"Is that the answer, is it? I don't know if I want to try that. That's amazing, eh," Williamson said.
"They (Smith and Warner) are both world-class players and have done it for a long time and both are in good touch.
"Certainly those two are in the top couple in the world. For us it'll be executing plans as best we can to give ourselves the best chance (of getting them out), but at the same time a lot of teams have done that before and those guys have still been successful."