Steve Smith has been criticised on social media for some strange actions during a drinks break, standing at the batting crease and scraping the wicket with his foot.
The moment came on the fifth morning of the third Australia-India Test at the SCG. Australia had struggled for wickets early in the day, with a counter-punch from Rishabh Pant putting pressure back on the hosts.
In the break in play, stump cam captured Smith standing on the crease as if preparing to face up, taking a step down the wicket, before digging a groove into the ground with his foot. Pant then had to remark his guard before play resumed.
The incident was not shown on Australian coverage, with archive footage shown instead. However, viewers of coverage using the Australian feed outside the country were able to see Smith’s actions.
While where Smith scuffed the pitch is not where a spin bowler could realistically hope to land the ball, the former Australia captain, who was removed from his role in the fallout of 2018’s ball-tampering scandal, was still criticised on social media.
Haha. Thought this was a joke at first. Seriously? Paine will be tying shoelaces together next.
— Redball 🏏 (@RedballT) January 11, 2021
— Thilak Ramamurthy (@Thilak_Rama) January 11, 2021
However, others felt that his actions, while odd, weren’t intended to gain any advantage.
I just find this funny lol. https://t.co/2wjxCY8JtT
— Kunal Tolani🏏⚡ (@Kunal_jt) January 11, 2021
Standing right at the crease. That's not the danger area. He would have to walk down 3-4 steps to really gain any unfair advantage by scuffing the pitch. But yes, messing with a batsman's guard while you are fielding is quite silly. https://t.co/re9nBQ0hod
— cricBC (@cricBC) January 11, 2021
A possible relevant section of the ICC Code of Conduct is section 2.10, regarding “unfair play”. It states that a “fielder causing deliberate or avoidable damage to the pitch” can be a Level 1 or 2 offence.