Steve Smith acted as an “absent-minded professor” rather than a villain in an explosive third Test incident, former Australian captain Ian Chappell believes.
And Chappell reckons current skipper Tim Paine has learned a valuable lesson about zipping his lip in the field, having apologised for a day-five performance in which he dropped three catches and sparred spitefully with India’s Ravi Ashwin.
Smith has copped a torrent of criticism after claims from Indian great Virender Sehwag that he scuffed up the batting guard of Rishabh Pant. Darren Gough called his actions “plain cheating”, claiming that he was also scuffing the wicket for spin bowling, while fellow former England players Michael Vaughan and David Lloyd also let fly.
Chappell saw nothing untoward but believes that Smith, who made 212 runs in the match, would be well-advised to stay off the pitch in future when not batting.
“Smith just gets in his own world, he probably didn’t even realise why he might be causing a problem,” Chappell told Wide World of Sports.
“Whether he did it deliberately or not, you never know, but I think he just lives in his own world and half the time – particularly now that he’s not captain – sometimes he’s just not aware that he might be doing something that either annoys or offends the opposition.
“I don’t think it was deliberate. I think he’s a bit of an absent-minded professor.
“I think Tim Paine’s said to him that it probably would be a good idea if he avoided doing it in future.”
Paine made a sincere apology for his behaviour at the SCG, also admitting that it affected his performance. He twice dropped Pant and later Ashwin as the Indian players delivered crucial innings.
His captaincy has remained under the microscope, with Indian great Sunil Gavaskar branding him “hopeless” and potentially facing the end of his reign.
Chappell disagrees with that assessment but reckons Paine just got a harsh lesson about the importance of keeping a cool head.
“I think he’s a good captain. Every captain will miss some tricks along the way,” Chappell said.
“But like all players, you’re better off just shutting up and getting on with the job. It was a classic example of why you should do that.
“To get involved in that – whatever he was trying to with Ashwin, I’m not sure – but to then drop him just a few balls later is a good reason why [you should remain quiet].
“It’s a hard enough job being a wicketkeeper. Then throw in being a captain and a wicketkeeper, you don’t need to be talking – you need to be thinking.
“And it’s not just Tim Paine, it’s pretty much all modern players. This business about, ‘It’s part of the game’; well in my opinion, it’s not part of the game.
“I was pleased, actually, when Ashwin pulled away because it’s about time batsmen let the fielding side know they’re not happy with that bulls–t.
“The other disappointing thing about that was that the umpire didn’t step in. Ashwin made it pretty obvious and at one stage he gestured towards the umpire, sort of saying, ‘I’m not facing up until this bloke shuts up’.
“The thing about it was, Paine was still going on while Ashwin was trying to take his stance. That’s not on. As a batsman, you don’t have to put up with any of that crap but you certainly don’t have to put up with it when you’re in your stance.
“Ashwin gestured towards the umpire, ‘Look, put an end to this’, and the umpire should’ve. He should’ve put an end to it a long time before Ashwin gestured but I think Ashwin was getting so frustrated by that stage that he thought, ‘Mate, can you do something about this?’
“The main thing is, and Tim’s a smart guy; as soon as he dropped the catch, he’s probably thinking to himself, ‘Why did I shoot my mouth off and not concentrate on keeping?’
“He’s sort of indicated that he’s not happy with his performance and I think you’ll find that he might be a little less vocal in future.”
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