Australia stick to age-old methods

Cricket : Smith clearly crossed the line in Bengaluru

Australia stick to age-old methods

Defending the indefensible. That’s what the Australian cricket team coach Darren Lehmann and Cricket Australia are doing after Virat Kohli suggested that the Aussie players were in the habit of seeking guidance from their dressing room for DRS referrals.

 Dismissing Kohli’s claims, Lehmann said: “We play the game the right way.” CA chairman James Sutherland went a step further and termed the allegations against Australian players “outrageous.”

 If taking help from the dressing room to make an “informed” call on DRS is the “right way to play” but pointing out such practice, which is clearly in contravention of the law laid down by the ICC, is outrageous, then Lehmann and Sutherland must be smoking something special. This was not just one man’s word against another. Smith was caught “red-handed” and it was ugly and unacceptable, as a former India paceman put it.

An Australian commentator seemed to suggest that Smith may not have been aware of the rule that as a batsman he can only consult his batting partner at the other end while asking for a review. Never a lamer excuse has been offered. Smith is not playing school cricket, he is the captain of a second-ranked Test team in the world and he is No 1 on the ICC’s rankings for Test batsmen.

 Sutherland further stated: “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.”

Outstanding cricketer and person, check. Role model, check. But no ill-intent in his actions?

Let’s just recall what Smith did. He is given out LBW by umpire Nigel Llong off Umesh Yadav, meets non-striker Peter Handscomb for a mid-pitch deliberation on the verdict and after a few seconds, on his partner’s suggestion, looks at dressing room to gesture as to what he should do.

 If one watches the footage of his dismissal carefully, there is enough to suspect if this was indeed a one-off incident which the Aussies want everyone to believe. But former Australia captain Michael Clarke, who was commentating when this incident took place, begged to differ. 

 "My concern and my worry is that when you look at the footage of what happened with Steve Smith, Peter Handscomb ... actually suggests to Steve Smith to turn around and have a look at the support staff. If it is only a one-off, I don't think that would have happened,” he told an Indian TV channel.

 "The fact that Peter Handscomb is even thinking about telling the Australian captain to turn around and look to the support staff, I've got my concerns."

Surprisingly, there is no punishment of any sort for such an offence in the code of conduct for players. At the most, a player will be denied his right to referral if he is caught seeking “outside” assistance. Were Smith and company aware that they can’t even be censured for this breach of rule? The ICC, predictably, has decided not take any action against any player.

 Australia were quick to invoke the “spirit of the game” even when a player is well within the rule to carry out an act. Stuart Broad was pilloried by the Australian media and was booed by their public every time he came to bowl or bat in the 2013 Ashes series Down Under. Reason: He had refused to walk after clearly nicking one to slip and being caught in the 2012 Ashes in England. The umpire didn’t see Broad edging the ball and Australia didn’t have any review left. Broad was well within his right to stay put but he became Australia’s enemy No 1.  

With such past record, how do you defend a national team’s captain who stands in violation of player’s code?

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