His actions looked suspicious and raised questions over whether he had genuinely had a change of character on the journey back from sandpaper-gate, but Tim Paine says Steve Smith had no thoughts of cheating when scuffing up Rishabh Pant’s batting guard in the SCG Test.
Paine addressed claims that Smith had crossed the line with a sneaky ploy to give Australia an advantage in his press conference this morning, in which he admitted that his own leadership and behaviour had been poor as tensions frayed on the way to an unlikely draw at the conclusion of the third Test yesterday.
The claims that Smith had deliberately cheated were made by various sources after the star batsman was filmed ruffling his spikes into Pant’s batting guard during a drinks break in the second session of day five.
Among those who felt Smith had overstepped the mark were legendary Indian batsman Virender Sehwag and former England seamer Darren Gough, with Sehwag saying Smith had “tried all tricks” and Gough describing Smith’s actions as “plain cheating” and “totally out of order”.
But in this morning’s press conference Paine rubbished those suggestions.
“I have spoken to Steve about it,” Paine said.
“He is really disappointed with the way it has come across.
“If you watch Steve Smith play Test cricket that is something he does every single game five or six times a day. He does this a lot. He is always in the batting crease batting.
“As we know, he has those many Steve Smith quirks. One of them is that he was always marking centre. He was certainly not changing (Pant’s) guard.
“I imagine if he was, the Indian players would have kicked up a bit of a stink at the time.
“I have seen Steve do it many times in Tests and games I have played against him. He likes to visualise how he is going to play.
“Yesterday you could see him up there playing shots as a left-hander to where he wanted Lyono to pitch the ball.”
Smith’s actions soured his man-of-the-match performance in the Sydney Test, in which the prolific right-hander compiled 131 in the first innings and 81 in the second.
There is set to be an even more intense spotlight cast upon Paine, Smith and the rest of Australia’s XI in the Gabba Test, which is set to start on Friday.
Paine’s involvement in the fourth Test was put in doubt when the wicketkeeper-batsman unleashed a foul-mouthed tirade at umpire Paul Wilson on day three of the SCG Test, saying “Where’s the f—ing consistency, Blocker?” when a DRS referral went against Australia.
But the skipper was cleared to play and fined 15 per cent of his match fee.
He also received one demerit point.
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!