The independent voice of cricket

India v Australia 2023

‘What the hell is going on?’ – Allan Border critical of Steve Smith’s thumbs up antics in massive defeat

Steve Smith thumbs up
by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Allan Border has criticised Steve Smith for his thumbs-up gesture during their massive defeat to India in Nagpur, urging the tourists to play with a “harder edge” after their meek surrender in the first Test.

The first Test of the highly-anticipated series folded in three days, with Australia suffering an embarrassing defeat by an innings and 132 runs. They collapsed to 91 all out in their second innings, their lowest total ever in India, and ended up conceding their fifth innings defeat in Tests against India.

Border, speaking to Fox Cricket, didn’t hide his displeasure at the manner of Australia’s surrender, picking out Smith’s “thumbs up” signal to remind the side to play with a “harder edge”.


Smith was seen appreciating India bowlers with a thumbs up after being beaten outside the off stump, a gesture that did not go well with Border.

“Play with a harder edge. I mean, we’re giving blokes the thumbs up when they’re beating us outside the off stump,” Border said.

“What the hell is going on? That is just ridiculous. Don’t go stupid, but Australia play hard nose cricket. We’re even giving someone thumbs up … bloody hell.”

It wasn’t the first time Smith has stuck his thumb out as an appreciative gesture to the opposition bowler: last year, he did the same to Sri Lanka debutant Prabath Jayasuriya after being beaten by him during the Galle Test.

Spin is expected to continue being a major talking point through the series, especially after India’s spin trio accounted for 17 of the 20 Australian wickets in the first Test. Skipper Pat Cummins, speaking after the game, said his team will have to find better ways to counter the threat going forward.

“A lot of it was good bowling, two masters of their craft, fresh legs, they bowled really well,” Cummins said. “In saying that I don’t think much is going to change in the next couple of games. That’s what we’re going to come against, so we have to find better methods. You saw Smithy [Smith] and Alex Carey at times put the pressure back on the bowlers. I think it takes a bit of bravery, it’s easier said than done.

“If you’re just facing ball after ball and the bowler’s pretty good, you’re going to get one with your name on it,” he continued. “Again, that will be the conversation this week. If we get the same conditions, same bowlers, what are we going to do differently? I think at times probably being more proactive.”

Smith finished with scores of 37 & 25 (Australia’s top score in the second innings) in Nagpur. The second Test will be held in New Delhi, starting February 17.

Have Your Say

Become a Wisden member

  • Exclusive offers and competitions
  • Money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Join the Wisden community
  • Sign up for free
Latest magazine

Get the magazine

12 Issues for just £39.99