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

Spiro Zavos Columnist

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Popular article! 5,236 reads

    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)

    • March 9th 2017 @ 7:50am
      Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      Why is there no article about the fact that Kohli has been permitted to comment about things that nobody else is allowed to comment about? Kohli should be facing a minimum 1-test ban for speaking in public about such things, let alone that he went to the extent of accusing the entire country of systematic cheating. Come on Roar, you should know better than this. Australia should be cancelling the rest of the tour over this defamation from Kohli, and they should sue him for defamation while they’re at it. Smith was penalised by the on-field umpires and was not permitted to review the decision as a result of looking at the dressing room. That’s the extent of the penalty required. There is absolutely no suggestion that it happened before then. If it had’ve, we wouldn’t have forgotten to review the Shaun Marsh decision. This ruined a good test match. Kohli needs to be banned over this.

      • March 9th 2017 @ 10:46am
        Ouch said | March 9th 2017 @ 10:46am | ! Report

        “Kohli should be facing a minimum 1-test ban for speaking in public about such things, let alone that he went to the extent of accusing the entire country of systematic cheating”

        Bang on Adrian. Not sure about a ban but the double standards are once again completely ignored by Spiro. No problem for David Warner to get fined and publicly castigated by the likes of Spiro when he accused Faf of ball tampering in South Africa in 2014 but now that Kohli has done it, we don’t hear boo.

        • March 9th 2017 @ 1:04pm
          Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

          Gayle, Sammy, Samuels, Pieterson, Warner and Haddin, as well as most recently Maxwell, all faced bans for talking to the media about things like this. While none of them went so far as to outrageously accuse the entire team of systematic cheating, if they had, they would have faced bans of several test matches. In fact, going through the list of countries where this has happened, there’s only South Africa and New Zealand who have never banned players for doing this, and only because nobody has ever said anything to the media like this. Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, you name it, everywhere has banned them. And India have too, just that they only do it when it’s criticising their own team. When they criticise someone else, it’s okay!

      • March 9th 2017 @ 2:52pm
        Ted said | March 9th 2017 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

        I don’t think cancelling the tour is very mature..take bat ball go’s game on how good will the next test be there may be an all in brawl.

      • March 9th 2017 @ 5:22pm
        rr said | March 9th 2017 @ 5:22pm | ! Report

        Australia can’t and won’t cancel the tour.If they are to cancel the tour,CA will run into losses in millions and all Australian player will lose their multi million IPL contract .

        • March 9th 2017 @ 11:16pm
          Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:16pm | ! Report

          Not if they back it up with a lawsuit for defamation. India wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

    • March 9th 2017 @ 8:17am
      jameswm said | March 9th 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      There’s a couple of things I must be missing here.

      Firstly, how on earth is a guy sitting at the boundary rope supposed to be any help as to whether to review? Is it because they are watching a TV screen?

      Secondly, it’s pretty easy to work out if it’s systematic or not. Go back and look at footage of every review the Aussies have done (or elected not to do) this series. I’m pretty sure they have not looked off the field. I don’t recall it, but no doubt India would have kicked up a stink at the time. If Kohli said it’s systematic, it’s poor form and completely without evidence, but hardly surprising.

      • March 9th 2017 @ 10:15am
        Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

        Exactly. At worst, he attempted to cheat on this occasion, but failed. End of story. Systematic cheating is very different.

    • March 9th 2017 @ 8:26am
      Riccardo said | March 9th 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      Good on you Spiro.

      Virat can be a bit over the top for my liking with his histrionics but like him, you’re prepared to stand up to Australian cricket. I’m not sure many here understand how they and their team are perceived offshore.

      They should be punished but I very much doubt that will occur. Rather than address any shortcoming the official stance is outrage.

      The real concern for me is that the manner in which this has played out as it suggests the possibility of this being a regular occurrence.

      We have to be clear there is no proof but if a former Australian Captain is concerned then we all should be.

      Unfortunately the nature of many fans on these pages means vitriol will ensue and any opportunity for remedial address probably compromised.

      At the very least the system itself needs to be tightened up; there’s not enough gentlemen left in the gentlemen’s game for self \-governance to be differentiated from an opportunity for skulduggery.

      • March 9th 2017 @ 8:56am
        Basil said | March 9th 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

        comedy gold Riccardo!!

        punished for what, momentarily glancing in the wrong direction?

        you need to take a closer look at home, in particular the bullying and thuggery directed at the very nice visiting Bangles team by your beloved Kiwi side. A number of times I saw bowlers hurl the ball at the opposing batter when he was well in his crease, on one occasion even causing injury. But not a dicky bird from the local press or fans? On more than one occasion I saw clearly unfair catches claimed. I think the one by Broom was actually hailed as one of the all time great catches, even though it was clearly grassed. Then there was the tactics of sustained intimidation and bouncers directed at the batter. Even in the womens game that was shown on tv I saw the Kiwi keeper claim a catch that had clearly bounced, although none of the commentators had the courage to point it out.

        • March 9th 2017 @ 2:36pm
          Basil said | March 9th 2017 @ 2:36pm | ! Report

          Seriously, how are you using my username?

          Any answers please moderators?

          • March 9th 2017 @ 5:40pm
            Basil said | March 9th 2017 @ 5:40pm | ! Report

            had it long before you did, pal!!

          • March 9th 2017 @ 11:17pm
            Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:17pm | ! Report

            Can’t there be two Basils? Basil classic and Basil new?

          • March 10th 2017 @ 9:37am
            qwetzen said | March 10th 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

            Maybe it’s the mods?

        • March 10th 2017 @ 7:44am
          Riccardo said | March 10th 2017 @ 7:44am | ! Report

          I think you may have missed the point Basil.

          But interesting commentary on your unbiased interpretation of unrelated events nonetheless.

        • March 16th 2017 @ 6:42pm
          Sydney Potae said | March 16th 2017 @ 6:42pm | ! Report

          kiwis got no dog in this fight so leave them out keep on the issuse

      • March 9th 2017 @ 10:00am
        Jake said | March 9th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

        ” like him, you’re prepared to stand up to Australian cricket.”

        Stand up against what? What have the big bad Aussies done to offend you this time?

        The ICC have decided there is no case to answer but of course (and as usual), you know better.

        What i find interesting is that when Warner got done for accusing De Plessis of ball tampering (who, like Smith had no case to answer) in South Africa you were all over Warner, Australia and Australians like a rash, screaming for him to be banned and dropping sad little dittys like “I’m not sure many here understand how they and their team are perceived offshore”.

        Warner was consequently fined, yet when Kohli has made an unfounded accusation, not a peep from you. Instead you praise kohli. Pathetic. No credibility whatsoever.

        • March 10th 2017 @ 7:42am
          Riccardo said | March 10th 2017 @ 7:42am | ! Report

          Morning Jake.

          I was screaming for Warner to be banned?

          I don’t recall; perhaps you could enlighten me once you’ve cleaned some of that froth off your dial.

          Just because the limp ICC have decided not to take the matter further does not legitimize the Australian Captain’s conduct.

          There’s no need to validate the point of my post with your abuse but thank-you.

      • Roar Guru

        March 9th 2017 @ 10:37am
        Diggercane said | March 9th 2017 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        I dunno Ric, personally I am pretty relaxed about it.

        It was a dumb thing done in a highly emotional and stressful point in the match. I can forgive him that, fine him his fee or something and move forward.

        If however it is a fact that this has been a planned endeavour, and I would assume review of video footage of earlier in this match and potentially others would prove this, then it is a matter to be taken more seriously.

        Just my two cents….

        • March 10th 2017 @ 7:46am
          Riccardo said | March 10th 2017 @ 7:46am | ! Report

          That’s fair Digger.

          Ever the gentleman sir.

          Virat is a bit of a prat actually but I felt he had a valid point.

          Helluva Test Match and sets up well for the next meeting actually.

    • March 9th 2017 @ 8:44am
      Beauty of a geek Brains of a bimbo said | March 9th 2017 @ 8:44am | ! Report

      Smith escapes the ban

      • March 9th 2017 @ 10:16am
        Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        I am not aware of a rule that allows a ban for looking up at the dressing room.

        Kohli escapes the ban is more realistic, as there most definitely is a rule prohibiting current players from accusing opposition teams of systematic cheating, with several players from non-Indian countries being banned for exactly that, including Brad Haddin and David Warner from our team. India are special, though, it seems, and get to not only escape a ban, but make it look like our guy should have been banned instead.

        • Roar Guru

          March 9th 2017 @ 11:15am
          Chris Kettlewell said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:15am | ! Report

          True. The only rule appears to be that if caught doing it the umpires won’t allow them to have a review, which is what happened. So basically, the penalty was already applied and it’s past.

        • March 9th 2017 @ 12:02pm
          Jacko said | March 9th 2017 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

          I am not aware of a rule that allows a ban for looking up at the dressing room.

          The umpires are aware of the rule tho

          • March 9th 2017 @ 1:05pm
            Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

            Not a ban.

            • March 9th 2017 @ 2:35pm
              Jacko said | March 9th 2017 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

              So you cant be banned for cheating Adrian?

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

                No Jacko. You can’t be banned for looking up at the change room. Shessh.

              • March 9th 2017 @ 11:19pm
                Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:19pm | ! Report

                You can be banned for speaking to the media criticising another player or team. It has happened about a dozen times beforehand. Kohli is the only player in history to have spoken out like this and not been banned. At least since the law came into effect.

                But no, you can’t be banned for looking up at the change room.

    • March 9th 2017 @ 9:09am
      nickbrisbane said | March 9th 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

      The box is sitting at 90 degrees to the wicket and from memory TV replays do not occur within the first 10 seconds within which a DRS decision must be made, so looking to the box is not going to help anyway?

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

        You dont need a replay most of the time when watching it on tv, you get a better view than anyone

        • March 9th 2017 @ 10:35am
          Jameswm said | March 9th 2017 @ 10:35am | ! Report

          Do they have a TV in the box?

      • March 9th 2017 @ 12:04pm
        Jacko said | March 9th 2017 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

        Nick, all concerned have admitted it 100% so not sure why you are still denighing it happened. Nothing has happened over the incident and nothing has happened to Smith or Kolhi so we will all move on I guess

    • Roar Guru

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

      This is about as OTT as Virat himself. I agree that Smith and Handscomb should be reprimanded for breaking the rules. But I’m not ready to hang them for this alleged ‘system’.

      How can anyone be so willing to take the likes of Kohli and Ganguly seriously without hard evidence to back up their comments? They talk so much smack to the media. They sell tickets to themselves. And Michael Clarke speculation counts as proof now, does it? Good grief.

      The answer should be simple. The ICC needs to go back and look at the tapes of each dismissal from both tests. That should take all of 2-3 hours. If they see a pattern of this behaviour then they should come down hard on the Australians, especially Smith and Lehmann. But if they find nothing to suggest that this wasn’t simply a one-off, how about we all just put it down to Indian histrionics and be done with it?

      As a side note, I can’t believe some of the antics Kohli gets away with on the field. The sledging is fine if that’s the way he wants to compete – it would be a bit hypocritical for an Aussie to complain about that. But he repeatedly walks up to batsmen and gets in their faces between deliveries/overs.

      Surely the umpires need to stop that sort of thing? The only other time I remember a player doing that regularly was David Warner in his ‘bad phase’ and half the world wanted to crucify him. Yet Kohli is untouchable. SMH.

      • March 9th 2017 @ 10:17am
        Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

        Per ICC rules, Kohli should be facing a 3-5 test ban for accusing the Australian team of systematic cheating. But instead we are focusing on Smith, who, per ICC rules, did nothing wrong.

        • March 9th 2017 @ 12:07pm
          Jacko said | March 9th 2017 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

          Just listen to the Kolhi interview PLEASE. He even refused to say the word. If you believe what Smith did is good for cricket or a very minor act then see what happens when evry team does it. All involved have admitted it and called it a brain fade so no one is argueing it happened

        • March 9th 2017 @ 12:35pm
          qwetzen said | March 9th 2017 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

          Does no-one recall the massively hypocritical Anil Kumble’s presser after the Monkeygate Test? There’s your precedent.

          • March 9th 2017 @ 1:06pm
            Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

            Exactly. Indians face no censure and get applauded for lying about other teams. Any other team does it, they face bans. Remember David Warner saying stuff on Twitter? He got banned for that. Quite rightly, too. Kohli should be banned over this, no question about it.

            • March 9th 2017 @ 2:38pm
              Jacko said | March 9th 2017 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

              So what did Smith get for cheating then???Does that mean that Australians never face any censure
              Yes Ban Kolhi for pointing out that Smith was trying to cheat…very clever

              Next you will want umpires banned for giving Aussies out

              • March 9th 2017 @ 6:01pm
                soapit said | March 9th 2017 @ 6:01pm | ! Report

                jacki get your story straight, a few posts above you are selling the story that kohli didnt say they were cheats because he avoided saying the word

              • March 9th 2017 @ 11:19pm
                Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:19pm | ! Report

                You’re Indian, right?

              • March 9th 2017 @ 11:22pm
                Adrian said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:22pm | ! Report

                This is the worst article I’ve ever seen on The Roar. Please post an accurate article on the incident. Thank you.

      • March 9th 2017 @ 10:36am
        Jameswm said | March 9th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

        Well said. Must be the name.

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