‘If something is going on for three days, that’s not a brain fade’
James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief executive, has jumped on Virat Kohli’s allegations of Australia’s captain Steven Smith “crossing the line” by seeking off-field advice for DRS referrals, calling them “outrageous”.
Currently in India, Sutherland spoke strongly in defence of Smith and the team after the coach Darren Lehmann had also categorically denied any orchestrated use of the team viewing area to deliberate on decisions.
“I find the allegations questioning the integrity of Steve Smith, the Australian team and the dressing room, outrageous,” Sutherland said. “Steve is an outstanding cricketer and person, and role model to many aspiring cricketers and we have every faith that there was no ill-intent in his actions.
“We reject any commentary that suggests our integrity was brought into disrepute or that systemic unfair tactics are used, and stand by Steve and the Australian cricketers who are proudly representing our country.”
Sutherland’s comments came after Lehmann insisted that Australia “play the game the right way” in the wake of serious allegations by Kohli.
The adjudicating match referee Chris Broad has reportedly stated that Smith would not face sanction over his attempt to check with support staff off-field whether to review his lbw on the final day of the Bengaluru Test match. However others, including the former captain Michael Clarke, have expressed concern about the young batsman Peter Handscomb’s role in the exchange and other possible instances of the practice.
Broad is scheduled to be replaced by Richie Richardson for the final two matches of the series, and ICC management based in Dubai are yet to comment on the episode. Lehmann delivered a staunch denial when asked whether there had ever been communication between the team on the field and the dressing room about referring a decision: “Never ever. No. Never.
“He [Kohli] has his opinion and we have ours. At the end of the day we play the game the right way. I’m very proud of the way the lads actually played. Disappointed we didn’t get across the line today. We changed the way we wanted to play with a change of side, a younger side. I’m really pleased with the way we do things now, we’ve never done any of that, and we’ll just get on with the next game. Disappointing today but you move on.
“Very surprised to hear it [the allegation] but again, that’s their opinion.”
Clarke, who worked alongside Lehmann as captain and coach for more than two years, said Handscomb’s involvement to prompt Smith to look towards the team viewing area worried him. Handscomb has tweeted that he had only done so because he was “unaware of the rule” forbidding players from seeking off-field guidance.
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!
— Peter Handscomb (@phandscomb54) March 7, 2017
“If you look at the footage, Peter Handscomb actually suggested Smith to turn around and look to the support staff. If this was a one-off, I don’t think that would have happened,” Clarke told India Today. “The fact that Handscomb has even thought of asking the Australian skipper to turn around and look to the support staff, I’ve got my concerns.
“I think Steve Smith respects the game and if it’s a one-off, then it’s a brain fade. I want to find out more about it. But if Virat is correct and if Australia are using DRS that way, then it is completely unacceptable and it is not a brain fade.”
Kohli stated after the Test’s conclusion that he had seen the Australians look towards their viewing area twice earlier in the match when he was batting, and had advised both on-field umpires to watch out for it. When Handscomb and Smith conferred, the umpire Nigel Llong stepped in quickly to stop any communication from taking place.
ESPNcricinfo understands that members of the Australian team had discussed seeking advice on referrals in the past, but ruled it out on the basis that it was both against the rules and also impractical on the basis that it would take too long. The ICC had also clarified the illegality of the practice to international teams in briefings several years ago.
Lehmann insisted that there had been no orchestration whatsoever, and went on to say that the Australian team had changed much in terms of attitude and on-field demeanour under Smith’s captaincy and the selection of a younger touring team to venture to India.
“Probably on their side it might but our side again I’ll say we were very good the way we went about it and trying to play the game the way we want to play it moving forward,” he said when asked if the series would remain tense. “Gone were the days where we used to be the other way, and I was part of that as an Australian side.
“So the young guys the way they want to portray themselves and get others to play the game and enjoy the game has been exceptional. I’m very proud of the way they went about it this game, even though we lost. [We want to] be remembered as a side that grows as a group together, doesn’t bite on confrontation and just plays the game.
“We want to be remembered as a side that learned and grew together as a group. So for us that’s a challenge. There’s tough times in India no doubt, but how we want to play is a lot like everyone else around the world wants to play, and that’s the brand of cricket people come to watch. It was a great Test match … disappointed but proud of them.”
The ugly scenes on the field during the Bengaluru Test marked a major downturn in relations between the two sides, but Lehmann said he had not sought out his opposite number Anil Kumble or Kohli to seek to smooth the waters.
“No, we leave that with ICC and that’s the way it goes,” he said. “We’re here to play cricket, we didn’t play it well enough, they outplayed us, the partnership between Pujara and Rahane was fantastic the way they played. We could have bowled better a bit yesterday and batted better today, but they outplayed us so we need to be better.
“It’s heated, it’s always heated in India that’s the way it is. So we didn’t cope well enough as a group in the last four or five sessions, pleased the way we bowled to get us back in the game, and we had our chances with the bat and didn’t get across the line.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo