India's captain Virat Kohli speaks to the umpire following Australia captain Steve Smith's dismissal. Danish Siddiqui / Reuters
India's captain Virat Kohli speaks to the umpire following Australia captain Steve Smith's dismissal. Danish Siddiqui / Reuters

Cricket Australia defend ‘outstanding’ Steve Smith over India’s cheating accusations



Australia’s cricket chiefs sprang to the defence of embattled captain Steve Smith on Wednesday after he was accused of cheating in the second Test against India.

India’s 75-run victory on Tuesday in Bangalore, after Australia crashed to 112 all out, has left the four-match series between the world’s top two sides poised at 1-1.

But Wednesday’s headlines were dominated by India captain Virat Kohli’s accusation that Smith abused the decision review system (DRS), after he was seen looking to the Australia dressing-room while considering appealing against his dismissal for lbw.

Rules forbid players to consult with anyone off the pitch about whether to seek a review from the umpires, particularly as support staff have access to television replays in the dressing-room.

At the post-match press conference, Smith, who was quickly waved off the field by the umpire, said he had been at fault, but put it down to a one-off “brain-fade”.

But an angry Kohli said that rather than being an isolated incident, “it’s been happening for the last three days”.

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Read more

■ Day 4: Australia spin out of control as India level series

■ Day 3: Pujara leads India revival after Jadeja limits Australia

■ Day 2: Shaun Marsh and Matt Renshaw keep Australia ahead

■ Day 1: Australia's intensity has India on the ropes

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Although Kohli stopped short of accusing Smith of cheating, Indian newspapers were less diplomatic. "Smith Caught Cheating," said an Indian Express headline while The Times of India dubbed the episode "Cheatgate".

But Cricket Australia’s chief executive James Sutherland said any questioning of Smith or the team’s integrity was “outrageous”.

“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,” said Sutherland, who was in Bangalore.

Coach Darren Lehmann also threw his weight behind Smith, saying his players are well aware of their responsibilities after previous spats between the two teams.

“He (Kohli) has his opinion and we have ours, but at the end of the day we play the game the right way,” Lehmann said on Cricket Australia’s website.

“We’ve changed the way we want to play, we’ve obviously changed the side and we’re a younger side so I’m pretty pleased with the way we do things now.”

Smith’s cause was not helped when his predecessor Michael Clarke voiced doubt over whether it was really a one-off, given that the non-striker Peter Handscomb seemed to suggest he consult the dressing-room.

“If what Virat Kohli is saying is true and Australia are using their support staff to help them decide on a DRS decision then that’s not on, that’s unacceptable,” Clarke told the India Today network.

“I think Steve Smith respects the game and will always uphold the integrity of the game and if it is just a one-off then it is a brain-fade and he’s made a mistake.

“My concern, my worry is, that when you look at the footage at what happened, Peter Handscomb ... actually suggests to Steve Smith to turn around and have a look to the support staff.

“Now if it is only a one-off, I don’t think that would have happened.”

Although no formal complaint has been lodged with the International Cricket Council (ICC), a source in the Indian board told AFP that the team would press for charges.

The next Test begins in Ranchi on March 16.

* Agence France-Presse

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