Gamesmanship? Smith scoffs at scuff slur
Steve Smith has denied trying to erase Rishabh Pant’s guard in the batting crease during the third Test against India on Monday, saying he had been marking centre as he always does.
Video footage from the stump camera of the Australian batsman ranked No.2 in the world dragging his boot across the crease on a tense final day of the match went viral on social media and some former players accused him of gamesmanship at best, cheating at worst.
Smith, recently named ICC Men’s Test Cricketer of the Decade, told News Corp on Tuesday that he was “shocked and disappointed” by suggestions he had tried to gain an unfair advantage.
“It’s something I do in games to visualise where we are bowling, how the batter is playing our bowlers and then out of habit I always mark centre,” he added. “It’s such a shame that this and other events have taken away from what was a great batting performance by India yesterday.”
Skipper Tim Paine said Smith, who was stripped of the Australian captaincy and banned for a year in 2018 for his part in the Newlands ball-tampering scandal, had merely been indulging in one of his many idiosyncrasies.
“If you’ve watched Steve play Test cricket, that’s something he does every single game — five or six times a day. He’s always standing in the batting crease, shadow batting.
“We know he has got those many Steve Smith quirks and one of them is, he’s always marking centre. He was certainly not changing guard and I’d imagine if he was, then the Indian players would have kicked up a bit of a stink at the time,” added Paine.
Pant’s heroic knock of 97 set the platform for India to save the Test after being set a daunting target of 407 to win.
Former India batsman Virender Sehwag and Sky Sports Cricket pundit David Lloyd were among those to voice their displeasure at Smith’s actions on Twitter.
“Tried all tricks including Steve Smith trying to remove Pant's batting guard marks from the crease,” tweeted Sehwag. Lloyd called it a “childish” act and former England skipper Michael Vaughan wrote: “This is very very poor from Steve smith!!”
Paine said Smith might have to give up the practice given how it was interpreted.
“It’s something that he might need to look at because of the perception of it,” Paine said.
But it’s more than just perception. Smith is a brilliant batsman but when the allegations had started to fly in Cape Town, he had initially lied to match officials. There is thus a question mark on his credibility.
As the great writer Sir Neville Cardus once put it: “It is far more than a game, this cricket.”