Steve Smith has revealed the heavy toll the furore over the vision of him appearing to scuff Rishabh Pant’s batting marks as cricketers leapt to the Aussie star’s defence.
After being pommeled by fans and ex-cricketers when the vision was revealed on day five of the drawn Third Test, Smith has broken his silence, revealing to The Daily Telegraphthat he was stunned by the controversy.
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Smith said he barely slept after the game finished as his integrity was questioned for an act the Aussies say many players do.
The vision saw Smith shadow batting as a left hander — like Pant — before he marked centre with his foot.
Pant then returned and marked all three stumps again.
“I have been quite shocked and disappointed by the reaction to this. It’s something I do in games to visualise where we are bowling, how the batter is playing our bowlers and then out of habit I always mark centre,” Smith told News Corp.
“It’s such a shame that this and other events have taken away from what was a great batting performance by India yesterday.”
It comes after the cricket world condemned Smith’s actions. Former England bowler Darren Gough called it “plain cheating” despite it not being illegal as he wasn’t scuffing up the danger zone on the pitch.
Former England skipper Michael Vaughan called it “very very poor” while Indian legend Virender Sehwag wrote Australia had “tried all the tricks including Steve Smith trying to remove Pant’s guard marks from the crease”.
In a scathing piece for The Daily Mail, David Lloyd slammed the Australian behaviour across the day as “depressing” and said Smith was “trying to irritate the batsman”.
“But with all the cameras around these days, and Smith’s history with the sandpaper, you have to reach the conclusion that he can’t have two brain cells to rub together,” he added.
“What was he thinking — if he was thinking anything at all?
“If I’d been umpiring that game, I’d have gone straight to the captain to tell him that I’m reporting his player, and that he’s got to take responsibility for the behaviour of his team. Absolutely disgraceful.”
But while the condemnation was swift, there has been plenty of support for the Aussie batsman. Tim Paine explained it was just a habit of Smith’s.
“He’s really disappointed with the way it comes across,” Paine told reporters on Tuesday. “He’s always marking centre — he was not changing (Pant’s) guard.
“That’s something I’ve seen Steve do that many times. He was not trying to change guard or anything like that.
“He’s quite upset about it. That’s something Steve’s done a lot … he just loves batting so much. There’s no way in the world he was trying to change Pant’s guard at all.”
On Fox Sports News, former Aussie star Mike Hussey said it was “a massive beat up”.
“Steve Smith just wants to bat all day, every day,” he said. “Even when he’s in the field, he’s still thinking about his batting. He’s just playing his shots, a bit of shadow batting and thinking about what he’d be doing at the crease. I don’t think there was anything untoward in this whatsoever and even as a batsman, you know where the lines are when you’re marking your guard so I wouldn’t read too much into that, I think it’s a mountain out of a molehill.”
Channel 7 expert and NSW Blues paceman Trent Copeland also came to Smith’s defence on Twitter, with Mark Waugh also chiming in.
Copeland also told The Daily Telegraph that Smith was “one of a million people who do this”.
“This is a near concrete-like surface that has deep crevices in it from people marking centre over five days. Steve didn’t erase anything,” he said.
“A batsman will come out and retake centre habitually as well. This is just so far from a story. And the fact that ex-players have weighed in thinking that it was a disgrace, to me, is a bigger disgrace.”
Former Aussie skipper Mark Taylor also spoke with Nine newspapers to reveal that he would do similar actions when Shane Warne was bowling.
“You stand roughly where the batsman is going to stand, look at where the rough is going to be and work out is your bowler bowling too short, too full, those sorts of things,” Taylor said.
“I don’t think it would be any more than that. I dare say the people who are making these comments, and I don’t know who they are, are making more of a name for themselves rather than actually commentating on the bloody game. I think there’s a few conspiracy theories going on out there.”