Things went slightly awry during India’s third test match against Australia, with Steve Smith committing a petty act. The Aussie batsman gave the cricket world a moment of déjà vu when he was spotted removing Rishabh Pant’s guard marks. It hasn’t been long since he came out from the ban on the ball-tampering scandal in 2018.
Despite showing a good record on the crease in the game with his 27th century in the first innings followed by a not-so-humble 81 in the second, Smith came under the radar of the influential figures in cricket due to his dishonest antics. India managed to secure a draw despite surviving for the loss of five wickets in the match. The cameras managed to record a shadow batting Smith while Cheteshwar Pujara and Pant were Australian team’s attacks. Smith used his spikes to chafe the batsmen’s markings on the crease used as a guide for detecting where the stumps behind the batsman are. This move caused Pant to retake guard. Considering how the action served no purpose apart from taking away a short amount of time from the Indian team, Smith was bizarre to do such a thing. Even though such a tactic is not illegal, it had plenty of reputed cricket figures shaking their head in disappointment.
Darren Gough, the ex-England fast bowler, did not mince his words when he gave his opinion regarding the issue. “It’s plain cheating in my book,” said the bowler, who has played 58 Tests and 159 ODIs. Most of the other cricketers did not accuse Smith directly of cheating since what was caught on camera was nothing illegal. Nevertheless, this move attracted a significant amount of flak and criticism towards the Aussie superstar. The consensus was that of bewilderment.
Former captain of the English team, Michael Vaughan, took to Twitter to convey his opinions. His tweet read, “This is very poor from Steve Smith!!” Indian cricket legend Virender Sehwag also spoke about the issue, where he wrote, “Tried all the tricks including Steve Smith trying to remove Pant’s guard marks from the crease.”
However, amidst all the criticism, judgment, confusion, and accusations, some figures sided with Smith, emphasizing Smith’s regular body language. Smith is well-known for his eccentric mannerism, which can be incomprehensible for fans of cricket, which is why some people find his bizarre behaviour on the crease during the match hard to explain. Captain of the Aussie team Tim Paine stated that his teammate had no sinister motives behind his actions and did not intend to ruin the markings. He noted that Smith was scratching the surface since it is a habit of his and a quirk he has always exhibited. Paine told the reporters, “He’s disappointed with the way it comes across. He’s always marking centre – he was not changing (Pant’s) guard.” Fabian Cowdrey tweeted, saying, “Steve Smith was just in his world, much like the way he goes about his batting. I don’t believe he has attempted to cheat in any way here.” Cricket writer Simon Hughes also sided with Smith, saying that, “I have looked at the footage, and I don’t think Smith was trying to cheat. He is – truly – an honest bloke”.