Smith gutted scuff cheating claims left stain on Test
Steve Smith is shocked and shattered at hysterical accusations he broke the laws and spirit of the game in the tense final hours of the drawn Sydney Test.
The batting superstar barely slept on Monday night, so distressed was he that his integrity had been wrongly called into question over an innocuous habit he and other players perform regularly on the field.
"I have been quite shocked and disappointed by the reaction," Smith told News Corp.
Social media went into a frenzy over stump cam footage which showed Smith standing at the crease during a drink's break and mimicking how left-handed Indian batsman Rishabh Pant might play, before marking centre with his foot.
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Pant then comes back into shot and takes guard again after a drink's break, sparking wild claims Smith had deliberately tried to scrape away the Indian star's guard in a bid to sabotage him.
Channel 7 expert Trent Copeland hit back by declaring it was ridiculous to suggest Smith would have even made an indent in the rock-hard SCG surface, and labelled former greats Virender Sehwag, Michael Vaughan and Darren Gough the real "disgrace" for fuelling an unfounded social media storm which went viral on Twitter in India.
Several Australian team sources revealed the former Australian captain was distraught about the furore and Smith has spoken out to explain his actions were all about visualisation and habit.
"I have been quite shocked and disappointed by the reaction to this. It's something I do in games to visualise where we are bowling, how the batter is playing our bowlers and then out of habit I always mark centre," Smith told News Corp.
"It's such a shame that this and other events have taken away from what was a great batting performance by India yesterday."
Tim Paine may have bared his anguished soul on Tuesday, but it was Smith who was suffering the greater emotional turmoil after being engulfed by the vitriol, apparently an easy target for outrage given his history of serving a two-year ban for his role in the ball-tampering scandal.
Former England quick Gough labelled Smith's actions as "plain cheating" in a vicious rant.
Teammates rallied around Smith.
Respected TV analyst and long-time Smith teammate Copeland launched a strident defence of the quirky batting genius.
"Genuinely, it's not him. He is one of a million people who do this," Copeland told News Corp.
"He is standing there left-handed looking out, initially looking at the footmarks that are in play for Rishabh Pant and what potentially could be in play tactically. He runs through in his mind, ''OK what would be happening, what would he be trying to do?'
"And then what plays out is a shadow batting moment and then the turning around part and the marking of centre, which is such a habitual thing for him.
"And Rishabh Pant then comes out after a drinks break and people are saying 'why is he so far away from him guard?'. Or 'why was Smith trying to scratch it out?'
"This is a near concrete-like surface that has deep crevices in it from people marking centre over five days. Steve didn't erase anything.
"A batsman will come out and retake centre habitually as well. This is just so far from a story. And the fact that ex-players have weighed in thinking that it was a disgrace, to me, is a bigger disgrace."
Captain Paine conceded Smith may need to readjust his in-between overs habits, but only because of perception - with the Australian captain adamant the Indian team thought nothing of the moment that drew zero reaction from Pant himself or their captain Ajinkya Rahane.
"Steve's quite upset about it. That's something Steve's done a lot. It's something we always have a laugh about because he just loves batting so much and even when he's out on the field he's shadow batting and marking centre," Paine said.
"I'm sure if people are happy to look back at the footage you'll see it happens probably more than once a Test match with Steve. There's no way in the world he was trying to change Rishabh Pant's guard or anything like that.
"It's just one of Smithy's things that he does. Now that it's come up as it has it's something he might have to look at because of the perception of it."
Originally published as Smith gutted scuff cheating claims left stain on Test