Australia defend skipper Smith as ‘cheat’ row escalates

  • india-australia test series
- Agence France-Presse, BANGALORE

Mar 9, 2017-

Australia’s cricket chiefs sprang to the defense of embattled skipper Steve Smith on Wednesday after he was accused of cheating in the second Test against India, amid calls for disciplinary action.

India’s 75-run victory on Tuesday in Bangalore, after Australia crashed to 112 all out, has left the four-match series between the world’s top two sides tantalisingly poised at 1-1. But Wednesday’s headlines were dominated by Indian skipper Virat Kohli’s accusation that Smith abused the decision review system (DRS), after he was seen looking to the Australian dressing-room while considering appealing against his dismissal for leg before wicket (LBW).

The rules forbid players to consult with anyone off the pitch about whether to seek a review from the umpires, particularly as support staff have access to television replays in the dressing-room. At the post-match press conference, Smith—who was quickly waved off the field by the umpire—admitted he had been at fault, but put it down to a one-off “brain-fade”. 

But an angry Kohli said that rather than being an isolated incident, “it’s been happening for the last three days”. Although Kohli stopped short of accusing Smith of being a cheat, Indian newspapers were less diplomatic. “Smith Caught Cheating,” said an Indian Express headline while The Times of India dubbed the episode “Cheatgate”.

But Cricket Australia’s chief executive James Sutherland said any questioning of Smith or the team’s integrity was “outrageous”. “Steve is an outstanding cricketer and person, and role model to many aspiring cricketers and we have every faith that there was no ill-intent in his actions,” said Sutherland who was in Bangalore.

Coach Darren Lehmann also threw his weight behind Smith, saying the current crop of tourists was well aware of their responsibilities after previous spats between the two teams. “He (Kohli) has his opinion and we have ours, but at the end of the day we play the game the right way,” Lehmann said on Cricket Australia’s website. “We’ve changed the way we want to play, we’ve obviously changed the side and we’re a younger side so I’m pretty pleased with the way we do things now.”

But Smith’s cause was not helped when his predecessor Michael Clarke voiced doubt over whether it was really a one-off, given that the non-striker Peter Handscomb seemed to suggest he consult the dressing-room. “If what Kohli is saying is true and Australia are using their support staff to help them decide on a DRS decision then that’s not on, that’s unacceptable,” Clarke told the India Today network.

Steve Waugh, another former Australian captain, said Smith would “probably be embarrassed” by what had happened. “Obviously he can’t do that, and it’s not in the spirit of the game. I’ve just got to believe him when he says it was a one off and it was an honest mistake,” Waugh said. “It’s big issue already, and a lot of people are talking about it, so I think it needs to come to a finality pretty quickly.”

Although no formal complaint has been lodged with the International Cricket Council (ICC), a source in the Indian board said that the team would press for charges. The record-breaking Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar said the ICC should punish Smith for a “quite blatant” breach of the rules. Another Indian batting great, VVS Laxman, tweeted that the Australian’s actions were “totally against the spirit of the game”. 

There was no immediate comment from the ICC but, depending on the nature of any complaint filed by the Indians, the match referee could decide to warn, fine or suspend Smith. The next Test begins in Ranchi on March 16.


Injured Marsh heads home from India

BANGALORE: Allrounder Mitchell Marsh is to return home from the ongoing Test tour of India after a deterioration of a long-running shoulder injury, Cricket Australia (CA) announced on Wednesday. The 25-year-old fast bowler was able to complete only five overs in the two innings of the second Test which finished on Tuesday and didn’t bowl at all in Australia’s victory in the first Test in Pune. He has also been a disappointment with the bat, scoring 0 and 13 as Australia went down to a 75-run defeat in the second Test in Bangalore. There was no immediate announcement on who would replace Marsh for the remainder of the four-Test series. (AFP)

Published: 09-03-2017 09:32

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