DNA Edit: Smith’s “brain-fade” moment and the ICC’s weak hand – India is a late entrant, having started using DRS only from last November during the India-England Test series.
The fallout of Steve Smith’s “brain-fade” moment during the second Test match between India and Australia at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru marred an otherwise excellent display of cricket by both sides. When the Australian skipper looked to his dressing room for guidance after being adjudged leg before wicket, Smith stood in blatant violation of one of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) cardinal rules that forbid the team appealing for the Decision Review System (DRS) from “direct or indirect input other than those from players on the field”. The ICC rules also mandate that “signals from the dressing room must not be given”. Indian skipper Virat Kohli who was quick to latch on to Smith’s act, proceeded to give him an unceremonious farewell, and then rubbed it in afterwards saying, “I don’t want to mention the word but it falls in that bracket.” It was quickly imputed that the word Kohli did not mention was “cheating” though he clarified that he did not use that word.
It is another matter that the ICC, as is its wont, played it safe by refusing to censure Smith or Kohli for their respective actions. Even the respective cricket boards, the BCCI and Cricket Australia, have jumped into the fray with the BCCI slamming the ICC for letting Smith go unscathed while Cricket Australia was miffed that Kohli was not punished. Former Indian skipper Sunil Gavaskar even went to the extent of rhetorically asking the Indian team to repeat what Smith did in the next match and then see what punishment awaited it. Allowing the on-field India-Australia rivalry to escalate off the pitch is clearly bad form. There was a case for ICC to punish Smith for his attempt to take undue advantage of the DRS system and to rebuke Kohli for his uncharitable send-off to Smith, whatever be the provocation.
The use of DRS technology to supplement on-field umpires has been around for nearly seven years. India is a late entrant, having started using DRS only from last November during the India-England Test series. So it is surprising that Smith looked at the dressing room, something he explained away, rather deftly, as a “brain fade”. However, the Indian side claims they spotted other instances of the Aussie dressing room allegedly guiding their team for DRS appeals. It is important that DRS is not subverted by human will because it allows players wronged by bad or wrong umpiring decisions a second chance.
Allegations of cheating are not new to cricket. The game has faced controversies from allegations of ball tampering to generate reverse swing, the use of ear pieces by Hansie Cronje to communicate with coach Bob Woolmer, and the alleged cleaning of the ball’s seam by Indian players. Both India and Australia need to put the bad blood behind and play cricket in the best traditions of the game. Of course, the competition, the rivalry and the acts of sledging, which is now par for the course, add colour and atmospherics to the game. Both Smith and Kohli are cricket’s most valuable players whose batting feats have propelled them to the captaincy of their respective teams.
Both of them need to pipe down and set examples for their respective teams and junior cricketers coming up the ranks.