SYDNEY — Steve Smith was not erasing Rishabh Pant’s guard in the batting crease during the third test between Australia and India on Monday but merely indulging one of his many idiosyncrasies, his captain Tim Paine said on Tuesday.
Video footage from the stump camera of Smith dragging his boot across the crease on a tense final day of the match went viral on social media and some former players accused him of gamesmanship at best, cheating at worst.
Paine said Smith, who was stripped of the Australian captaincy and banned for a year in 2018 for his part in the Newlands ball-tampering scandal, had been upset by the allegations.
“I know he’s really disappointed with the way it’s come across,” Paine told reporters on Tuesday.
“If you’ve watched Steve Smith play test cricket, that’s something that he does every single game five or six times a day.
“He’s always standing in the batting crease shadow batting. As we know, he’s got those many Steve Smith quirks and one of those is he’s always marking center.
“He was certainly not changing (Pant’s) guard and if he was, that’s something that the Indians would have kicked up a bit stink about at the time.”
Pant’s heroic knock of 97 set the platform for India to save the test after being set a daunting target of 407 to win, with Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin thwarting Australia’s attack over the last three hours to secure a draw.
Paine, who also apologized for his own conduct during the third test, said Smith might have to give up the practice given how it was interpreted.
“It’s one of his mannerisms, he does it a lot, he was marking center he wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination trying to change guard or anything like that,” he added.
“It’s something that he might need to look at because of the perception of it.” (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Pritha Sarkar)