Former Australia captain Steve Smith has been in quite a controversial position over the last couple of days. Footage from the recently concluded Sydney test match caught Smith engaging in some unsavory match practices while casually ‘shadow batting’.
It all came to light during the drinks break of the final day of play. The Australian fielders had just walked back from the pavilion and were looking to get warmed up. Smith, as we all know, is a man of certain cricket-related eccentricities, and his unique warm-up style brought some of the particularly interesting ones into notice.
Smith ‘shadow bats’; removes Rishabh Pant’s footmarks from the pitch
Instead of jogging, or casual exercising, Smith decided to head on to the pitch and casually practice batting; even though he wasn’t going to get to bat anytime soon in what remained of the match. Nonetheless, Smith walked up to the pitch, right in front of the stumps, and attempted to align his feet like a left-hand batter.
But it’s that last bit about his feet alignment that has really put the talented Australia batsman’s stature into jeopardy. From the available footage, it looks like Smith’s only intention was to remove the foot-marks the Indian batsmen had previously left on that spot. Getting rid of the tracks could prove somewhat irksome to the batting side, and could potentially distract their focus. In fact, Rishabh Pant had to take some time before he could realign himself to a comfortable batting spot.
But as it turns out, it seems that Smith’s batting practice didn’t have anything to do with Pant’s footmarks after all. A longer footage that has been recently procured shows that the groundsmen arrived on the pitch before the Australian team did and limewashed the pitch with a wiper. Thus, it’s quite likely that the loss of footmarks was due to the cleaning staff doing their job; and Smith was innocent the whole time!
Full video of Steve Smith incident
— middle stump (@middlestump4) January 12, 2021
Steve Smith: Innocent or cheating?
Australia captain, Tim Paine, meanwhile, defended ‘Smudge’ in the post-game conference. According to Paine, Smith’s shadow batting was just a personal quirk and not an attempt to disrupt India’s batting. In fact, Smith batted left-handed- opposite to how he usually does- just to help their spinners know where to pitch the ball.
But there’s another aspect of ‘dishonesty’ to Smith’s actions. Smith hasn’t been a stranger to controversial and illicit proceedings on the field. Back in the 2017 Border Gavaskar Trophy in India, there was his infamous ‘Brain fade’ DRS referral to the dressing room. In 2018, of course, there was the much more ill-reputed Sandpaper-gate incident; which even forced Cricket Australia to ban him, David Warner, and Cameron Bancroft for a year.
So, given all the precedences: is it fair to assume Paine was correct about Smith? Or was it just a desperate defense mechanism from an already maligned Australia captain? We’ll let you have your say on that one in the comments section.