STEVE Smith's fall from grace was encapsulated in the former Australia captain's humiliating walk of shame through Johannesburg airport as he headed home.
Smith looked close to tears as he was bundled through the terminal by local police after an emotional few days, which culminated in him and David Warner receiving historic 12-month bans from playing at a national or international level.
There were boos and cries of "cheat!" as the 28-year-old battled his way past the cameras wearing a navy baseball cap and white T-shirt, after he was seen off by coach Darren Lehmann, fast bowler Mitchell Starc and batsman Usman Khawaja.
The talented Aussie bowed his head at Tambo International as reporters asked, "How are you going there, mate?" and another added, "What do you say to the people who are calling you cheats right here?"
Lehmann was cleared of any knowledge of the ball-tampering plan, which was masterminded by Warner and carried out by Cameron Bancroft, according to Cricket Australia's inquiry.
Smith, who Lehmann called "a great young man who made a mistake", was found to have known about the plot and failed to stop it, and to have been guilty of misleading officials after the event.
He will not be allowed to captain Australia for two years, and even then, any return will depend on various factors, including public sentiment and that of the team.
Warner, who identified himself as the ringleader in the sandpaper plot, will never be allowed to hold a leadership position in Australian cricket again. The pair will, however, be able to play club cricket.
One of Australia’s greatest ever cricketers who made a shocking error in judgement now being ushered through an airport like a convicted drug mule.— Theo Doropoulos (@TheoDrop) March 28, 2018
Regardless of your opinion of him, you can’t look at this image and say you don’t feel slightly bad for Steve Smith. I know I do. pic.twitter.com/FWyZK6XIjk
As Smith left the team's hotel, the world's best Test batsman hugged replacement captain Tim Paine and told the Associated Press he didn't feel like playing any cricket right now.
Cricket Australia's James Sutherland yesterday said in a press conference that Smith was "distraught, very upset" after the scandal emerged.
Bancroft received a nine-month ban from international and provincial cricket.
Smith, Warner and Bancroft will now return home to face a disappointed and angry Australian public, missing out on the rest of the season and the lucrative 2018 Indian Premier League season. They will also have to complete 100 hours of voluntary service in community cricket to regain the trust of the fans.
Smith is expected to hold a press conference once he lands in Sydney.
Three replacement players have flown out from Australia to take their places for the final test in South Africa starting on Friday.
Shane Warne said Smith and Warner had been victims of a "tornado of hysteria" as commentator Jim Maxwell told ABC radio the "shattered" ex-captain was "really suffering" and in a worrying "psychological state".
His father Peter Smith told the Daily Telegraph it was "a very difficult time" for the whole family, and that he and his wife supported their son, who had been calling every day.