Boards leap to captains' defence

India captain Virat Kohli (2nd from L) complains to umpire Nigel Long about his Australian counterpart Steve Smith (R) seeking ‘dressing room advice’ on the fourth day of the high-octane second Test in Bangalore. PHOTO: REUTERS file

Australia's and India's cricket boards sprang to the defence of their respective captains Wednesday amid a spiralling war of words that soured the aftermath of the dramatic second Test.

India's 75-run victory on Tuesday in Bangalore, after Australia crashed to 112 all out, has left the four-match series between the world's top two sides tantalisingly poised at 1-1.

But Wednesday's headlines were dominated by Indian skipper Virat Kohli's accusation that Steve Smith abused the decision review system (DRS), after he was seen looking to the Australian dressing-room while considering appealing against his dismissal for lbw.

The rules forbid players to consult with anyone off the pitch about whether to seek a review from the umpires, particularly as support staff have access to television replays in the dressing-room.

At the post-match press conference, Smith -- who was quickly waved off the field by the umpire -- admitted he had been at fault, but put it down to a one-off "brain-fade".

But an angry Kohli said that rather than being an isolated incident, "it's been happening for the last three days".

Although Kohli stopped short of accusing Smith of being a cheat, Indian newspapers were less diplomatic. "Smith Caught Cheating," said an Indian Express headline while The Times of India dubbed the episode "Cheatgate".

Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland said any questioning of Smith's integrity was "outrageous".

"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," said Sutherland, who was in Bangalore.

Coach Darren Lehmann also threw his weight behind Smith, saying the current crop of tourists was well aware of their responsibilities after previous spats between the two teams.

"He [Kohli] has his opinion and we have ours, but at the end of the day we play the game the right way," Lehmann said on Cricket Australia's website.

Amid a clamour among former Indian players for Smith to be sanctioned, the Indian board (BCCI) said it had raised his behaviour with the International Cricket Council while launching its own defence of Kohli.

"Mr. Virat Kohli is a mature and seasoned cricketer and his conduct on the field has been exemplary," the BCCI said in a statement. "BCCI has requested the ICC to take cognizance of the fact that the Australian skipper Mr. Steve Smith in his press conference admitted to a 'brain fade'.

"BCCI sincerely hopes that the rest of the matches are played in the true spirit of cricket."

Smith's cause was not helped when his predecessor Michael Clarke voiced doubt over whether it was really a one-off, given that the non-striker Peter Handscomb seemed to suggest he consult the dressing-room.

"If what Virat Kohli is saying is true and Australia are using their support staff to help them decide on a DRS decision then that's not on, that's unacceptable," Clarke told the India Today network. "I think Steve Smith respects the game and will always uphold the integrity of the game and if it is just a one-off then it is a brain-fade and he's made a mistake.

"My concern, my worry is, that when you look at the footage at what happened, Peter Handscomb... actually suggests to Steve Smith to turn around and have a look to the support staff.

"Now if it is only a one-off, I don't think that would have happened."

Steve Waugh, another former Australian captain, said Smith would "probably be embarrassed" by what had happened.

"Obviously he can't do that, and it's not in the spirit of the game. I've just got to believe him when he says it was a one off and it was an honest mistake," Waugh told reporters in Delhi.

While there was no word from the ICC, record-breaking Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar said Smith should be punished for a "quite blatant" breach of the rules.


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