Australia captain Tim Paine has defended Steve Smith against allegations of unsportsmanlike conduct, insisting he was not trying to change India batsman Rishabh Pant’s guard.
Ex-Australia skipper Smith has come under criticism by former players after video footage from the stump camera showed him dragging his boot across the crease on the final day of the drawn third Test in Sydney.
Paine said Smith, who lost the captaincy for his part in the ball-tampering scandal at Newlands in 2018, is upset about the reaction to the incident and was only going through one of his many idiosyncrasies as a player.
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“He is really disappointed with the way it has come across,” Paine said. “If you’ve watched Steve Smith play Test cricket, that’s something that he does every single game five or six times a day.
“He’s always standing in the batting crease shadow batting. As we know, he’s got those many Steve Smith quirks and one of those is he is always marking centre.
“He was certainly not changing [Pant’s] guard and I imagine if he was, the Indian players would have kicked up a bit stink at the time.
“That is something I have seen Steve do many of times in Test matches and [Sheffield] Shield games I have played with him.”
Paine said Smith, who was named man of the match for his innings of 131 and 81, might have to give up the practice given how it was interpreted.
“It’s one of his mannerisms, he does it a lot, he was marking centre he wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination trying to change guard or anything like that,” he added.
“It’s something that he might need to look at because of the perception of it.”
Paine: My leadership was not good enough
Speaking at an impromptu press conference, Paine also said he was “bitterly disappointed” with his leadership and conduct during the match.
The 36-year-old said his sledging of Ravichandran Ashwin, who alongside Hanuma Vihari batted through the last three hours of the match to secure a draw for the tourists, fell short of the standards he has set for the team.
Paine added he had allowed the pressure of the match, in which he dropped three catches, to get the better of him.
“I want to apologise for the way I went about things, I’m someone who prides himself on the way he leads this team and that was a poor reflection of that,” said Paine, who was also fined 15 per cent of his match fee for swearing while complaining to an umpire on day three.
“My leadership wasn’t good enough, I let the pressure of the game get to me. I fell short of my expectations and my team’s standards.
“I’m human, I want to apologise for the mistakes I made. We have set really high standards over the last 18 months and [Monday] was a bit of a blip on the radar.”
Australia waiting on Pucovski fitness
The final game of the four-Test series starts at The Gabba in Brisbane on Friday.
Australia will delay making a call on opener Will Pucovski’s availability and give the opener two days to recover from a shoulder injury.
The 22-year-old landed heavily after trying to stop a shot from India’s Hanuma Vihari on day five of the Sydney Test, with Cricket Australia saying the batsman has suffered a “shoulder subluxation injury”.
CA said: “[Pucovski] will continue rest and rehabilitation over the next two days before a decision is made on his fitness for the fourth Test match. No additional players have been brought into the squad for the final match.”
Pucovski missed the first two Tests with concussion after being hit on the head in a warm-up game but scored 62 and 10 on his Test debut in Sydney.
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