Team India completed a memorable drawn test-match against their Australian hosts on Monday. Led from the front by a resilient batting performance from Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin; the Ajinkya Rahane-led side batted a record 131 overs in the fourth innings to deny Australia a victory. The result of the game has kept the Border-Gavaskar series alive for India, who will now head onto Brisbane for the final game with plenty of confidence.
The game, while memorable, had its fair share of controversial and heated moments. Aside from the heinous racism that Indian players had to cop from outside the field; the Sydney test saw hosts Australia revert to some really unconventional tactics in a bid to win the match. Australia captain Tim Paine, for one, lost his cool on more than one occasion and was caught using inappropriate language on the umpires and Indian players.
Steve Smith ‘Shadow-Bats’; scuffs Rishabh Pant’s footmarks
But the incident that garnered the greatest amount of negative publicity was Steve Smith’s ‘Shadow Batting’. On the final day, on-field cameras caught Smith- who was fielding at the time- walk onto the pitch and practice his batting. But a closer look on the matter suggested that Smith’s actions weren’t as innocuous as they appeared. One particular video footage caught Smith scuffing Indian batsman Rishabh Pant’s batting footmarks during the drinks break.
Batting footmarks are quite convenient for a batter to figure out their ideal stance. But once Smith did his thing, Pant had to start afresh and take a new guard once again.
Funnily enough, Smith’s gestures made very little impact on Pant’s overall performance, as the latter went on to score a brilliant knock of 97. But the cricketing fraternity wasn’t absent-minded to Smith’s actions and went on to give him a hard time on social media. The likes of Michael Clarke, Darren Gough, and Virender Sehwag were extremely critical of Smith; calling his decisions ‘poor’ and even directly comparing them to cheating.
But as it turns out, Smith wasn’t trying to change Pant’s batting marks after all! In a post-match interview, Paine explained that ‘Shadow Batting’ is just one of the many quirks that are unique to Smith. Further, he assured that Smith wasn’t trying to affect Pant’s batting, and was only trying to help Australian bowlers plan their bowling.
“Wasn’t doing any cheating; just one of Smith’s many batting quirks”- Australia captain Tim Paine
“If you watch Steve play Test cricket, that is something he does every single game. Maybe five or six times a day. He does this a lot. He is always in the batting crease batting. As we know, he has many of his own quirks. One of them is that he was always marking center. I can assure you that Smudge (Smith) was certainly not changing (Pant’s) guard,” Paine said.
Smith has been really disappointed with the negative reactions that he has copped over the matter, Paine also revealed. “I have spoken to Steve about it. He is really disappointed with the way it has come across. I imagine if he was doing something unethical, the Indian players would have kicked up a bit of a stink at the time. I have seen Steve do it many times in Tests and games I have played against him. He likes to visualize how he is going to play. Yesterday you could see him up there playing shots as a left-hander. He just wanted to know where he wanted (Nathan) Lyon to pitch the ball,” Paine concluded.