Steve Smith’s “brain fade” was cheating that should be punished

Spiro Zavos Columnist

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    Former Indian captains Sunil Gavaskar and Sourav Ganguly are right to insist that the ICC punish Steve Smith for his “brain fade”, which saw him look to the Australian dressing room for guidance while considering whether to review an LBW decision against him.

    This is difficult to write, because it is never pleasant to make an allegation of cheating against any cricketer. But this is what Smith’s “brain fade” was.

    He is the Australian captain and has graced the game, at every level, throughout his fabulous career. But what he did after a skidding delivery smacked into his pads plumb in front of middle stump was unacceptable and unbecoming behaviour.

    I can’t see how it can be described as anything other than cheating. The term “brain fade” in this context is a coy way of admitting guilt.

    Gavaskar and Ganguly are well-known mischief-makers when it comes to making allegations of cheating, racism and skulduggery against Australian cricketers.

    But just as a stopped watch is correct twice a day, they are right on this occasion.

    By calling his action a brain fade, Smith conceded that he looked up to the Australian dressing room for confirmation on whether to review the LBW decision or not.

    That is bad in itself. It is a concession that he broke the rule that reviews must be dealt with by the players, on both sides, entirely on the field. There must be no off-the-field help or players on the field looking for it.

    But was it really a brain fade? Or was it a deliberate action that followed the (equally unacceptable) intervention of his fellow batsman, Peter Hanscomb?

    This question gets to the heart of the matter. Because if the answer is yes to the last question then the matter becomes even more concerning.

    A yes answer indicates, and there is no getting away from this, that the Australians were rorting the review system.

    The case against Peter Handscomb and Steve Smith, I regret to write, looks to be very strong.

    My authority for this statement is Hanscomb himself, from his Twitter account: “I referred smudga to look at the box… my fault and was unaware of the rule. Shouldn’t take anything away from what was an amazing game!”

    If anyone believes that this tweet was not an admission of cheating let him/her explain why Hanscomb referred Smith “to look at the box.”

    It is obvious from this that Hamscomb knew that the box would give Smith a signal whether to review the decision or not.

    There are two aspects of this tweet that give away the game the Australians were playing in the box.

    First, Hanscomb concedes that he suggested to his skipper he should get a nod from the Australian team room about whether to review the umpire’s decision.

    Second, the claim that he was “unaware” of the rule forbidding getting an off-field nod about a review suggests that instruction from the team’s dressing room was an accepted practice.

    If Hanscomb was unaware of the rule and, in turn, suggested to Smith that he look to the Australian team room for a nod, this must be seen as an admission that this was a practice or tactic used by the team.

    Australian batsman Peter Handscomb

    Now, before anyone gets too worked up about Spiro going over the top, just read what Michael Clarke had to say about this very point in an interview with India Today: “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.

    “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.”

    Clarke continued, “I think Steve Smith respects the game and if it’s a one off, then it is a brain fade.I want to find out more about it. But if Virat is correct and if Australia are using the DRS that way, then it is completely unacceptable and it is not a brain fade.”

    Australia captain Michael Clarke scratches his head

    This is powerful stuff from a former Australian captain. These words need to be said, and acted upon.

    It is this last point that needs teasing out, particularly in the light of an initial and worrying response of the match referee Chris Broad.

    According to The Australian‘s excellent cricket writer Peter Lalor, Broad told reporters he saw the Smith incident and he implied he was taking no further action regarding it. He also indicated that he was not aware of the Australians having “systematically” cheating.

    This response directly disregards Michael Clarke, Virat Kholi and Sourav Ganguly.

    Kohli told a tense media conference that he had seen three occasions, twice when he was batting, of the Australians attempting to seek input over the reviews from the dressing rooms.

    He made a point, he said, of alerting the umpires about what he had seen. Surely Broad should consult with the umpires and check videos to see if Kohli is correct with his allegations?

    We know for sure that for one of the occasions, the Steve Smith incident, that Kohli was correct.

    Then there is the Ganguly accusation made to The Star Sports feed in Bangalore and published in The Daily Telegraph in an article written by Ben Horne, that he “personally witnessed Australia sending men to the stands and instructing them to give DRS signals”.

    Now this is a particularly serious accusation. It would be relatively easy to verify. And Broad and/or the ICC must do this.

    Horne also made the point that the Ganguly statement was carried on the feed on a “several second delay”.

    The suggestion here is that the producers of the feed were prepared to allow the accusation to be published. If they were doubtful about it, they surely would have pressed the kill button.

    Horne made a further point: “However, at this stage Kohli has no proof to back up his scandalous claim.”

    I would dispute this. The umpires have not contested Kolhi’s claim that he informed them of actions by the Australians that he considered were not permitted under the DRS system.

    Smith has conceded, too, that he did look to the Australian dressing room for guidance.

    Hanscomb, too, has admitted that he suggested to his captain that he take this action which is in violation of the rules.

    I can’t see, therefore, that Kohli’s claim is “scandalous.”

    The behaviour of Smith, Hanscombe and people in the Australian dressing room was “scandalous”.

    This brings us to what sort of punishments need to be levied.

    A one-Test suspension for Steve Smith and Peter Hanscombe is in order. For the Australian coaching staff, a donation of their Test fee to an Indian charity would be the appropriate punishment.

    Spiro Zavos
    Spiro Zavos

    Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.

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    The Crowd Says (206)

    • Roar Rookie

      March 9th 2017 @ 4:26am
      El Loco said | March 9th 2017 @ 4:26am | ! Report

      Are Kholi, Kohli, and Kolhi the same guy?

      I know the Roar isn’t the absolute pinnacle of journalistic endeavour, but some standards please.

      Otherwise, serious and disturbing issue, much more to hear.

      • March 9th 2017 @ 8:40am
        BarnDog said | March 9th 2017 @ 8:40am | ! Report

        What about Hanscomb, Handscomb, Hamscomb and Hanscombe??

        • Roar Guru

          March 9th 2017 @ 11:06am
          Ryan H said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

          Pattinson, Pattison and Patterson

        • March 9th 2017 @ 11:16am
          Hamster said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

          Ha! well played boys-those names went straight to the keeper for me! Spiro-sort it out..

      • March 9th 2017 @ 11:14pm
        Jordan c said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:14pm | ! Report

        Ha classic lads.

    • Roar Rookie

      March 9th 2017 @ 5:52am
      Tana Mir said | March 9th 2017 @ 5:52am | ! Report

      Let’s look at the issue.

      First: Smith did not look up until Handscomb pointed/recommended to look up. If this was planned, why would Smith need reminding?

      Second: If this was planned they would have been more subtle, and not do what Smith did, which is “raising his head towards dressing room” clearly asking what do you think. This is anything but subtle, as evidenced by Kohli throwing a fit and Umpires (rightly) telling smith you are done.

      Michael Clark’s comments don’t surprise me, but what surprised me was the great Spiro Zavos falling for it.

      • March 9th 2017 @ 7:52am
        Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

        Smith was punished by the on-field umpires by not being allowed to review the decision. There is no more penalty required, against him at least. Kohli, on the other hand, should be facing a minimum 1-test ban for bringing the game into disrepute after he accused the entire Australian team of systematic cheating, and he should be facing legal action on top of that.

        • March 9th 2017 @ 12:20pm
          Pedro the Maroon said | March 9th 2017 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

          And there was Kohli’s dissent after his LBW dismissal.
          I suspect we’ll start reviewing ALL decisions soon.
          They check for a no ball anyway when someone is bowled or caught. Overturning decisions because of the no-ball shows the umpire was not watching.
          Therefore the 3rd umpire might as well check the umpire did not make an outrageous mistake like Warner (hit him outside the line) or Marsh (ball clearly missing) for all outs.

        • March 9th 2017 @ 3:21pm
          kallis said | March 9th 2017 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

          adrian, your one-eyed support of Smith/Australia is really wonderful, however there are some amongst us who would prefer the traditions of this great game to be upheld. As Australian captain, one of Smith’s responsibilities is to uphold these traditions. This is why there has been such an uproar.

          In my view, Cricket Australia should relieve Smith of the captaincy, however it should not have been necessary for them to do so. Smith should have stood himself down from the captaincy.

          There are plenty of precedents for people in positions of power stepping down after being caught out, one of the most famous in recent memory would be President Nixon over “Watergate”.

          Smith has, again in my view, consistently shown himself to be a poor captain. Poor tactics, bad body language, and absolutely petulant when things are going against him.

          • March 9th 2017 @ 6:47pm
            davSA said | March 9th 2017 @ 6:47pm | ! Report

            Then by implication Kallis , FAF Du Plessis should also be relieved of his test captaincy. After all he was in fact found guilty under ICC code of conduct rules. Unlike Smith who has publically expressed regret , FAF was unfazed and still claims , according to him at least , the moral/sporting high ground.

            I’m also not sure that equating the Watergate scandal to Smiths on field actions is a rational comparison.

          • March 9th 2017 @ 10:26pm
            jameswm said | March 9th 2017 @ 10:26pm | ! Report

            Kohli delivered a masterclass on being petulant when things are going against you.

          • March 9th 2017 @ 11:12pm
            Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:12pm | ! Report

            One eyed? Seriously???? David Warner got banned for having a go at England’s team on Twitter, and I supported that pretty publicly. I’m as neutral as they come. Love all cricket teams. Even like Kohli when he’s not being a twit. But when he’s badmouthing people and being the only player in the world not to be banned for it, then I’m gonna say something. I am sure that Chris Gayle wished that he could have spoken out about things and not faced a ban. In fact, not only is Kohli the only one not to be banned, he is also by far the worst of them. Even Kevin Pietersen’s comments weren’t accusing a whole team of systematic cheating. Heck, even Hansie Cronje wasn’t as bad as this.

            • March 10th 2017 @ 9:33am
              qwetzen said | March 10th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

              Adrian said: “David Warner got banned for having a go at England’s team on Twitter…”

              Eh? Wasn’t Warner’s rant against Crash Craddock & The Conn? And I think fined, not “banned”.

          • March 10th 2017 @ 7:06am
            David Baker said | March 10th 2017 @ 7:06am | ! Report

            Easy to express regret when you don’t get charged…

            ICC gets the boys together, wags their finger at them, tells them there will be no action and they must be good boys going forward….. for a definite infraction..
            Faf may well have expressed regret as well if he had gotten a stern talking to,

            When you get charged you either guilty or not guilty.
            Faf had to make that choice.
            Smith didn’t

      • Roar Guru

        March 9th 2017 @ 8:43am
        Fox said | March 9th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        Not quite – because the Indians noticed this going on in the first test and that is why they were onto it. They had already spoken to the umpires about it before the 2nd test and sure enough …look what happened…so Smith may have been reminded, but that does not mean by definition he didn’t know and especially if it was tactic used in the first test that did not go unnoticed.

        • Roar Rookie

          March 9th 2017 @ 9:38am
          Tana Mir said | March 9th 2017 @ 9:38am | ! Report

          “Indians noticed this going on in the first test”

          I do not believe that for a second, remember there are billion cricket obsessed people watching this, and any excuse to blame the 1st defeat on anything other than better skills of Australians would have been all over the 2 dozens cricket channels in India.

          And you really think Kohli would let that pass even if he had minuscule of evidence.
          This was the only time Smith made a mistake and apologized for it.

          • Roar Guru

            March 10th 2017 @ 12:01pm
            Fox said | March 10th 2017 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

            It was apparently not noticed by Virat during the match but by team management upon reviewing footage of the first test…and anyway what Smith did was completely wrong whether he did once or 100 times and to defend him over this is ridiculous – what would we be saying if it was Virat that did that?

            The Kohli knockers on here would be out for blood make no mistake about it …but Smith does it and suddenly a thousand excuses for him and words like “it wasn’t that bad” come out of the woodwork

            What he tried to do stinks in the spirit of the game, plain and simple, whether we want to admit it or not.. I’m with Spiro on this one and to say he didn’t know is not an excuse either…You do not need to be told that is the wrong thing to do because its bloody obvious you shouldn’t do that.

            A teenage cricketer could figure that outlet alone a professional.

        • March 9th 2017 @ 9:49am
          Ouch said | March 9th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

          ” because the Indians noticed this going on in the first test”

          carp they did. The Indians would have been onto it in a flash if they had and the whining would have been monstrous.

          • March 9th 2017 @ 2:28pm
            Bee bee said | March 9th 2017 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

            This is a rubbish of Trumpsonian magnitude. There are a dozen cameras that focus on the players in the most minuscule detail, especially when there is a chance for review. The video doesn’t lie. This was without doubt the first time a player looked to the box.

            To then claim that Australia is systematically cheating is defamatory. But in this post facts world. Just like Trump. If Virat says it happened then it must be true.

        • March 9th 2017 @ 11:14pm
          Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:14pm | ! Report

          Nah, in the first test India noticed they didn’t know how to use DRS and got jealous. They were just waiting for an excuse to sling this mud around. Anything to hide the fact that they blatantly doctored the Pune pitch, and it still didn’t work. If Australia were cheating with DRS, they would have challenged the Shaun Marsh LBW. You’d have to be pretty slow to think that Kohli is being truthful here.

      • Roar Guru

        March 9th 2017 @ 8:59am
        Cadfael said | March 9th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        I thought the ICC rules were that there could be no replays until the period for a review was up. What good would looking up at the dressing room do?

        • Roar Guru

          March 9th 2017 @ 9:21am
          Red Kev said | March 9th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

          Any modern TV digitally records the most recent 2 hours of whatever it has been screening and allows for user pause/rewind/slow-mo of “live” action.

          • Roar Rookie

            March 9th 2017 @ 9:32am
            Tana Mir said | March 9th 2017 @ 9:32am | ! Report

            C’mon RK, 10 seconds to rewind, analyse and pass back the info.

            • March 9th 2017 @ 9:41am
              qwetzen said | March 9th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

              Easily enough time.
              Unless of course you’re using an IQ3 in which case it’ll freeze/go to black screen or just totally fail.

            • Roar Guru

              March 9th 2017 @ 9:47am
              Red Kev said | March 9th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

              As soon as the appeal goes up you’re checking…by the time the umpire has deliberated and raised the finger you’ve checked it once, by the time the batters confer and glance sneakily at the dressing room you’ve checked it twice and put your hands over your head (or whatever the signal is) – it’s very very easy to do.

              I do however doubt that it was actually done. I reckon Peter Handscomb just thought “I’ve got no clue, maybe someone in the dressing room was watching the TV live and has a good idea of what it looked like.”

              The fact that Smith’s gesture was so obvious makes me think there wasn’t a concerted plan. However it is still cheating.

              The match referee decision to do nothing at all is an attempt to defuse things because by my count about half a dozen players could have been fined under code of conduct charges. I see that Richie Richardson is the match referee for the next test, at least he won’t take any crap.

              • Roar Rookie

                March 9th 2017 @ 10:02am
                Tana Mir said | March 9th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

                “The fact that Smith’s gesture was so obvious makes me think there wasn’t a concerted plan.”

                Exactly my point, they would have been little subtle.

              • March 9th 2017 @ 11:02am
                Kohli said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:02am | ! Report

                ‘The fact that Smith’s gesture was so obvious makes me think there wasn’t a concerted plan. However it is still cheating.’

                No ..Ever heard of ‘people lying so much and getting away with it , that they get careless and eventually get caught out ?
                That’s what happened here – aussies were abusing this drs so rampantly that they forgot to be discrete in one heated tense moment and got caught !

              • March 9th 2017 @ 12:34pm
                Christo the Daddyo said | March 9th 2017 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

                “aussies were abusing this drs so rampantly that they forgot to be discrete in one heated tense moment and got caught”

                Please give us one other example of this happening. Just one.

                Go on – I dare you.

              • March 9th 2017 @ 2:28pm
                Mickey of M0$man said | March 9th 2017 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

                There would be no dispute about ‘cheating’ had the ball actually bounced at all!

              • March 9th 2017 @ 2:33pm
                Jacko said | March 9th 2017 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

                Christo he said 1….then you ask for a second?????

              • March 10th 2017 @ 8:30am
                Christo the Daddyo said | March 10th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

                Jacko – go back and read what I wrote. I seem to have missed a crucial word…

          • March 9th 2017 @ 9:40pm
            Tony H said | March 9th 2017 @ 9:40pm | ! Report

            Red Kev,

            That’s fine, but the feeds are on a 5-7 Second delay, not to mention the extra lag of digital.. No chance of anything useful there in that 3-5 seconds mate..

          • March 9th 2017 @ 11:15pm
            Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:15pm | ! Report

            That’s a bit of a conspiracy theory there. While this obviously didn’t happen, I can bet that someone somewhere is trying to figure out how to cheat in this way now, and we’ll have actual DRS cheating in just a few years. All because of this comment from Red Kev. For shame.

      • March 9th 2017 @ 12:13pm
        stevedeanski said | March 9th 2017 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

        Yes, great points Tana Mir.

    • March 9th 2017 @ 6:19am
      Baz said | March 9th 2017 @ 6:19am | ! Report

      im sorry but a south africian got busted trying to change the condition of the ball that is cheating he didnt even get done for one match.

      • March 9th 2017 @ 11:24am
        I hate pies said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:24am | ! Report

        India change the condition of the pitch every match and they never get done for it.

      • March 10th 2017 @ 7:12am
        David Baker said | March 10th 2017 @ 7:12am | ! Report

        He did get charged and fined..
        Smith didn’t even get charged

    • March 9th 2017 @ 6:26am
      Baz said | March 9th 2017 @ 6:26am | ! Report

      Basically a test match ban is a crazy call.

      spiro have you never had a fail after a failure point and being the most critical batsmen on the team abd getting out therea alot of pressure right there and then.

      if u watch clarke he seems to take of the role of supporting the indians in his commentry as he knows who pays him.

      if its systematic you better have real evidence first anyone can make a story. As in a first hand account. the two ppl u spoke of are untouchable in indian so they can say what they want. the fact it was posted in the tele doesnt instill confidence.

      look what happened to actual cheats like the south africians and thier ball tanpering over past few yrs not much happened. they did cheat changed condition of the ball and it helped them get extra movement.

      On a personal view i think you shluld have 15 seconds to make a decision and if you have help why not.

      • March 9th 2017 @ 1:02pm
        Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

        A test match ban for Kohli is quite reasonable, and it has precedent, and has happened on several occasions. Punishing Smith, on the other hand, would be extraordinary. You don’t just go around saying that a team is cheating all the time and go unpunished.

    • March 9th 2017 @ 6:42am
      Gel said | March 9th 2017 @ 6:42am | ! Report

      Rancid click bait.

      The only true words uttered in this article come from the dullard Michael Clarke: “I don’t think”.

      No Michael. You don’t think.

      • March 9th 2017 @ 7:17am
        qwetzen said | March 9th 2017 @ 7:17am | ! Report

        Agree with the first bit but disagree with Clarke not thinking. He’s thinking all the time. It’s just that it’s all about career, vendettas & paranoia.

        • March 9th 2017 @ 9:01am
          Gel said | March 9th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report


          Good point.

      • March 9th 2017 @ 7:18am
        AJ said | March 9th 2017 @ 7:18am | ! Report

        Agree. I’m surprised his best Mate and well known paragon of virtue Shane hasn’t joined in.

        • March 9th 2017 @ 12:34pm
          Christo the Daddyo said | March 9th 2017 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

          He wasn’t watching. He was playing poker.

    • March 9th 2017 @ 7:45am
      George said | March 9th 2017 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      But King Lehmann says they don’t cheat!

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