Once a cheater, always a cheater? Those were the words ringing as the shambolic effort on the field told its own tale.
Steve Smith might be many things, including being a prolific batsman for the Australian cricket. But he is developing a devious reputation for being a repeat offender and it is something that needs to be addressed because Tim Paine’s explanation of “quirks” to describe Smith’s behavior of scruffing up Rishabh Pant’s guard is bordering on the inane.
It was not pleasant viewing to watch someone of the stature of a former international captain indulge in what is clearly unbecoming unsportsmanlike behaviour. Smith was caught on camera, pretending to bat left handed = the idea of shadow batting is instantly dismissed. He then proceeded further to do the quick work of ensuring that the dirt on the pitch was smudged enough to wipe out the guard taken by Rishabh Pant.
If that was not the case or the intent, the evidence is quite extraordinary because the video shows almost immediately Pant returning to the crease and asking the umpire once more for a fresh guard. It is a highly unusual activity for a batsman who usually takes his guard once at the time of his arrival at the crease and rarely after again.
The Australian captain was quick to dismiss Smith’s seemingly underhand tactics caught on tape. Calling it one of Smith’s quirks, Paine claimed that Smith tended to indulge in shadow batting five or six times on the field when fielding. What seems like strong evidence of what is happening on the part of a batsman, who if the shoe were on the other foot, would raise a hue and cry as the Australians tend to do cannot be negated as a simple quirk on the part of one of the world’s most prolific batsmen.
Most batsmen tend to have conversations with fielders during the break, sometimes even trying on the opposition batsman’s bat at the crease, watching a batsman wipe out another’s guard is hardly a common vision, even when Smith and Australia are playing. Paine is going to need a good explanation as will Smith because after serving a one year ban for ball tampering after crying foul for “not stopping” the incident in Cape Town, his tactics in Sydney only point further in the direction of conspiracy theories coming out of Australia that Smith might have been more complicit that he would have the world believe in his role in the shameful ball tampering incident in South Africa in the Cape Town Test of 2018.
Brain fades, captaincy blips and quirks. Smith is almost matching his legacy with the bat with a string of controversies that would certainly make him an anomaly in history.