Steve Smith, the former Australian skipper, was seen scuffing up Indian batsman Rishabh Pant’s guard marks during a drinks break in the first session on Day 5 of the third Test at SCG. Pant scored a scintillating 97 to give India a shot at winning the match in pursuit of 407 but it ended in a draw.
After the video emerged, Smith faced criticism on social media by fans and former Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag.
Tried all tricks including Steve Smith trying to remove Pant's batting guard marks from the crease. Par kuch kaam na aaya. Khaaya peeya kuch nahi, glass toda barana.
But I am so so proud of the effort of the Indian team today. Seena chonda ho gaya yaar. pic.twitter.com/IfttxRXHeM
— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) January 11, 2021
However, Australia captain Tim Paine has defended the Aussie star Smith, asserting that the Indian team would have raked up the issue if any wrong was committed on the field.
Talking about the incident and his subsequent conversations with Smith, Paine said: “I’m glad you asked that because I have spoken to Steve about this. And I know he’s really disappointed with the way it’s come across. If you’ve watched Steve Smith play Test cricket, that’s something he does every single game, 5 or 6 times a day. He’s always standing in the batting crease, shadow batting. We know he’s 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. That’s something I have seen Steve do many times in Test matches and Shield games I’ve played with him. When he’s in the field, he likes to walk up to where he bats and visualize how he’s going to play. Yesterday you could see him up there, playing a couple of shots as a left-hander – as if (working out) where he wanted Lyon to pitch the ball. And one of his mannerisms – he does it a lot. he was marking centre, he wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination trying to change guard or do anything like that.
“Steve’s quite upset about it. That’s something Steve’s done a lot. It’s something we always have a laugh about because he just loves batting so much and even when he’s out on the field he’s shadow batting and marking centre. He actually does it a lot. I’m sure if people are happy to look back at the footage you’ll see it happens probably more than once a Test match with Steve. There’s no way in the world he was trying to change Rishabh Pant’s guard or anything like that. It’s just one of Smithy’s things that he does. Now that it’s come up as it has it’s something he might have to look at because of the perception of it.”
In 2018, Smith was involved in a ball-tampering scandal that took place during the third Test match against South Africa at Newlands in Cape Town.
Subsequently, Smith, along with then vice-captain David Warner, was banned by Cricket Australia for 12 months from international as well as domestic cricket. He was replaced by Paine as the Australian skipper.
(With inputs from Cricbuzz)