Down and out after being skittled for the paltry total of 36 in Adelaide, India’s resurrection of fortunes in Melbourne and now Sydney in Australia resembles that of a phoenix rising from the ashes. Albeit the phoenix was carrying a truckload of injuries, was subjected to racial abuse, and an arrogant opposition captain who completely lost his marbles and hurled expletives (Paine saying D******d to Ashwin) towards the visitors. The latest comes from Steve Smith.
Add to it, the mountain of a target that seemed impossible to scale at the beginning. However, the Indian team showed admirable character, steely resolve, and the courage of putting everything on the line (figuratively, as well) till the last ball of the day.
But as is the tradition with most Sydney Tests involving India and Australia — the third Test had its fair share of controversies. While the racial abuse hurled towards the Indian players is still being investigated, it is Steve Smith who has once again brought the eyeballs on himself and not for cricketing reasons, albeit for his routine tendency to not uphold the game in the right spirit.
After drinks break of the first session on the final day, Steve Smith walked to the striker’s end where a set Rishabh Pant, going all guns blazing was seemingly taking India towards a highly unlikely victory. However, before Pant could come to the crease, Smith approached the popping crease and started shadow batting.
Very few teams take so much effort to ensure you keep hating them. https://t.co/8TkoDzIm0l
— Nikhil 🏏 (@CricCrazyNIKS) January 11, 2021
There was nothing wrong up until this point but then Steve Smith proceeded to do what the stump cam caught and was then relayed to the millions of cricket watchers across the planet. Smith intentionally while shadow batting in the left-handed stance (Steve Smith is an RHB whereas Pant is an LHB) scuffed the guard of Pant and through repeated sliding movements of his spikes laden shoes, made the guard disappear.
While it may look harmless at first glance but the questions have been raised around cricketing fraternity as to why a player who does not have to bat anymore in the match would come up and purposely try to erase the batsman’s mark. Remember that these are the same Aussies who in the past have not let the batsman touch the ball when they have defended it near the bat and are only trying to give it back to the fielder.
For all we could have known, Pant would have come back after the drinks break, forgot where his actual guard was, only to realize a couple of deliveries later and as we know, a delivery or two is more than enough for the pace battery of Australia to knock down any player in home conditions. A million things are swerving through a batsman’s mind while being in the middle and especially when chasing a daunting total of 407 on a fifth-day pitch.
The only thing batsman can be sure about is the fact that the crease belongs to him and he can do anything in the box without having to think about the opposition and their antics. It was lucky that Pant came back and took his guard again but imagine if he had got out, wouldn’t it be Steve Smith responsible for Pant’s dismissal?
“People say he’s done nothing wrong — well he has! He’s going onto the pitch … and rubbing out the markers the batsman has put on to (signal) where he puts his bat. It’s plain cheating in my book.” said Darren Gough, ex-England fast bowler.
Those protecting Steve Smith saying he loves his cricket and he always does these sort of idiosyncrasies, are only trying to hogwash the real issue. Nobody denies the class of Steve Smith – the batsman. But it is his antics on the field that has left much to be desired.
Brainfade in India,
Sandpaper in South Africa,
Scuffing pitch in Australia,
What a player Steve Smith is. Performs everywhere .
— Trojan_Horse (@sampath0272) January 11, 2021
The Sandpaper gate is still fresh in the public’s memory where under Steve Smith’s captaincy, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner indulged in ball-tampering. It was the Capetown Test and when the ubiquitous cameras spotted Australians resorting to cheating, it came as a rude shocker to the entire cricketing community.
Steve Smith had to face the music for his action and was banned for a year from playing International cricket by Cricket Australia. His video of crying in front of cameras and emotional outreach that he had let down his ‘old man’ had garnered a lot of sympathies back then but it seems like Smith was just keeping up with the appearances.
Steve smith has forgotten, his interview 2 years back for sandpaper gate
he is a serial offender disgrace cricketer
Icc and cricket Austria should take his actions seriously
India vs Australia
Ind vs Aus
— Gatsby (@gatsbyweed) January 11, 2021
Apart from this, Steve Smith notoriously has been part of the infamous ‘Brain fade’ moment which happened during Australia’s last tour of India. After being given LBW out by the umpire during the Bengaluru Test, Smith instead of consulting his non-striker partner Peter Handscomb about taking the DRS or not looked towards the dressing room.
Steve Smith’s glance over to the dressing room for advice on whether to review the umpire’s decision drew an explosive response from Kohli, who claimed it was third such time the Australian had sought assistance in the second Test. As is the typical Aussie response, Smith nonchalantly referred to the entire accident as a brain-fade moment for him.
— BCCI (@BCCI) March 7, 2017
To make matters worse for Steve Smith, it is being speculated that the IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals is mulling releasing him ahead of the 2021 IPL auctions, partly due to his lacklustre form in the shortest format of the game and also because of his boorish behaviour.
Steve Smith received the Test Batsman of the Decade award from ICC a few weeks back and it is a testament to his quality as a batsman but if ‘Smudge’ continues to involve himself in incidents as mentioned above, he will command no respect of his cricketing peers as well as fans.
Virat Kohli, known for his aggressive nature on the pitch had stood for Steve Smith during the last World Cup match between two countries. The India crowd was booing Steve Smith but Kohli gestured towards them to drop the act and start appreciating Smith for his effort.
Steve Smith can take a lesson or two from Kohli’s book of treating the opposition. After all, the game of cricket will only stay with him for a few more years — he will have an entire life after his playing career ends. And no player would like to be brandished as a cheat but for the time being, Smith will have to cop the blows coming his way and we sincerely hope that he apologies for his actions, however harmless it may seem to him.