“Australians are cheats.” These are the three words I grew up listening to when I had no interest in cricket. I was surrounded by cricket lovers in the family and the Indian team meant a big deal to them. I might not recollect India’s historic victories back then, but there is a memory that is still fresh in my mind. There have been two countries that had stitched strong strings with Indian cricket – Pakistan and Australia – and I always wondered maybe the Indian fans hated India’s loss to Australia more than India’s loss to Pakistan.
Whenever India and Australia lock horns, the intensity involuntarily skyrockets; there are healthy banters on the field; there are severe exchange of looks; at times the competitiveness takes a toll on the players and a few forgetful incidents take place. The battles have included so far bouncers, sledging, inappropriate language and last but not the least – “Monkeygate” and “Homeworkgate.” Every bilateral series between India and Australia have such moments.
India are hosting Australia for the four-Test Border-Gavaskar 2017 and fighting against all the odds, Steven Smith and Co managed to take a 1-0 lead after a stellar victory in Pune, In the second Test, Bengaluru track against its nature was a tricky to bat on, both Indians and Australians faced trouble in batting.
Why Smith, why?
Until Day 3, there was usual healthy sledging, Ishant Sharma, who was struggling to make breakthroughs tried to distract the opponents by mimicking their face expressions. The banters were being taken in the right spirits. The situation went out of hand on Day 4 when Steven Smith was adjudged LBW off Umesh Yadav’s delivery and the former shocking looked at the dressing room for assistance in whether he must take a DRS review or not.
The captain of the World No. 2 Test side had the audacity to cheat, not thinking once that he might be wrecking his country’s image by doing so.
Virat Kohli was criticised for losing his cool, but the Indian skipper later said that he did not regret his aggression against an act which was not in the spirits of the game. The situation was handled by the on-field umpire Nigel Llong, who immediately patted on Smith’s shoulder asking him to walk off.
Old wounds recalled
Angry Indian fans erupted social media bashing Smith for his intolerable act, bringing back Aussies’ ”Cheaters” tag.
Suddenly, the controversial 2008 Sydney Test between India and Australia was recalled. The match became forgettable owing to poor umpiring and accusations of poor sportsmanship from the Australian team. Even in the 2008 Australia’s captain, Ricky Ponting, was involved in a huge controversy of claiming a catch when the ball clearly touched the ground.
After nine years, another Australian skipper, Smith, has invited another controversy for his country. Smith said it was a “brain fade, but it is difficult to accept that a captain who is also the World No. 1 Test batsman had tried to make a mockery of cricket rules.
Meanwhile, contradicting to Smith’s brain fade statement, Kohli in the post-match conference revealed that the Australians had earlier done that twice in the match and a third attempt to cheat was something he would not have let it happen.
Rubbishing Kohli’s accusations that Australians had cheated twice earlier in the Test, assistant coach David Saker suggested that when Smith looked at the dressing room, the Australian clan was more horrified than anyone. “I think when actually Steven Smith did look up, we were more horrified than anyone else because we had never seen that before. We haven’t got any elaborate sign system, and when he did do that, it was quite a surprise to us. But that’s never happened to me anywhere in my time in cricket,” he told ESPNCricinfo.
However, since it was a “fine cheating,” an investigation was demanded, the least that could be done. Even Smith’s countryman Steve Waugh believed an enquiry should be called and whatever the outcome is, Smith would have learnt his lesson.
However, the ICC chose not to reprimand Smith for going against the spirits of the game. The cricket body said both the teams gave their all and they want both teams to focus their energies on the third Test in Ranchi next week. Ahead of that, the match referee will bring both captains together to remind them of their responsibilities to the game.
Smith, the cricket fraternity wants to believe that it was indeed a “brain fade.”
Both Kohli and Smith are responsible cricketers despite these incidents. With two electrifying Tests left and series levelled at 1-1 at present, it will be the finest decision for them to keep the DRS Saga back, move forward and inspire their respective sides to produce incredible Test cricket. Because that’s all matters at the end in the sport.