Is Steve Smith A Cheat?

He’s the golden boy of Australian cricket. But did Steve Smith cheat? I don’t think too many would argue that Smith cheated, or at least tried to cheat, when he looked at the balcony for advice before deciding whether to review his dismissal in the second innings in Bengaluru.

Does this make Smith a cheat per se? I guess it depends where you want to draw an arbitrary line. Virat Kohli seems to think a ‘line was crossed‘ in the second test, but unsurprisingly the ACB’s James Sutherland thinks portraying Steve Smith as anything other than an angelic little darling is ‘outrageous‘.

My personal view is that Smith simply forgot himself at an emotional moment when the game was on the line. He was desperate to stay in and win the game for his country, and this prompted him to made an understandable but extremely unfortunate error.

Does this mean that Smith is the spawn of something sinister and should be harangued out of cricket? Although I have no concrete information on Smith’s exact lineage I’m inclined to say ‘no’. Why? Because I bet most teams have sought off-field advice over DRS reviews (or at least tried to) over the years. They just haven’t been caught.

Now let’s widen the discussion somewhat. Are the Australian team (in general) cheats?

It’s tempting to ask whether the Pope is Catholic at the juncture. However, considering some of England’s misdemeanours in recent years – the jelly beans, the dubious use of superb fielders as 12th men whenever lumbering fast bowlers take ‘comfort breaks’, Stuart Broad’s non walking, and players urinating over The Oval outfield – I’m not inclined to get on my high horse over this.

Having said that, what we do know is the following …

According to Cricinfo, the Aussies had actually talked about whether they should try to bend the laws (by getting a little DRS help from the dressing room) before the series started – or at the very least they’d discussed whether it was feasible.

Consequently, it’s fair to say that cheating / bending the rules / gamesmanship (delete as appropriate) was obviously on Smith’s mind (and the Australian team’s mind) before the ugly incident occurred.

As former captain Michael Clarke has pointed out, the fact Smith’s partner Peter Handscomb prompted his captain to seek help from the balcony (and Smith immediately responded) looks very suspicious indeed. I’d probably go further and say that it strongly suggests underhand tactics were on the agenda.

Because of this, I believe that Smith’s mental error / blatant cheating was somewhat premeditated. I simply can’t believe that the conversation with Handscomb was as innocent as this:

Handscomb: “I know we’ve never discussed this before skip, but have you thought about getting some help from the balcony? Boof might be able to tell you whether to review”.

Smith: “You know what Peter my boy? You’re absolutely right. What a spiffing idea. I can’t believe we’ve never thought of that one before”.

What’s more, Handscomb has actually landed himself in the stinky stuff by claiming (completely unbelievably) that he didn’t actually know seeking advice from the balcony was illegal.

Pull the other one, Pete! What were you doing when the team was discussing whether to adopt the tactic? Looking out the window with your fingers in your ears?!

Having said all that, and basically argued that Smith was caught red handed, I’m now going to argue (somewhat bizarrely) that the Australians and their captain shouldn’t be punished too severely.

Did Steve Smith cheat? Yes he probably did. But as I argued above, I bet every team has done this (or tried to) in the past. They’ve just been subtler about it.

Whereas Smith looked up at the balcony in an obvious manner, I’d be amazed if other teams haven’t worked out some kind of code – like the coach stroking his chin, or the tour manager doing the Macarena, every time they think a decision should be challenged. It’s just common sense, right?! Plus I’m philosophically opposed to making an example of people. Justice should be consistent for all.

Consequently, because I sense Smith’s crime was merely trying to cheat so blatantly, rather than subtly like everyone else, I think calls for a ban are over the top. I’d simply reprimand him, fine him, and make Smith play the next test from the confines of a hamster ball. Well, he does look like a hamster doesn’t he?!

And there ends a very serious discussion on a very unserious (and decidedly inane) suggestion.

James Morgan 

* This article, which was written in March 2017, seems rather prescient after the events of sandpaper-gate. I think it’s pretty fair to say that Steve Smith is a cheat after all! (Editor)


  • He broke the rules in looking for advice so in that sense he attempted to cheat.

    The whole point of the 15 seconds is suppose to be so that it removes the possibility of getting outside help. This was made clear to the players when the DRS first starting being used but perhaps that has been lost somewhere along the way. How many DRS games has Handscomb played? Enough to know the rules but I he wouldn’t be the first player to have a understanding lower than keen fans.

    Is this the worst form of cheating in the game? I don’t think there is an objective way to compare. Smith was out, it wasn’t a tight review so he gained nothing.

    Personally I would give Smith a warning and remind Boards to instruct their players that DRS decisions are to be made on field. If the Irony of that statement doesn’t amuse you then you are taking the game far too seriously

    • If you give elite sports people access to these types of things, they will 100% try to find a way to take advantage of them.

      It only takes one team to suspect another team of “cheating” the system, then everyone will be doing it, citing that: “if they’re doing it then we should too, to level the playing field”.

      Give an inch, they will take a mile.

      Look at the F1 teams being told they couldn’t say certain things, lead to codes and manipulation.

      Cycling with so called “prescribed medication” to athletes. Clearly “bending” the rules.

      Why don’t they remove the temptation by either stopping live TV feeds into the dressing rooms, or having a 30 second delay?

  • Putting pressure on Smith/Australia on this issue could backfire on India, as it could unite them as a team & make them more determined. I also think it that it just gaming the system(like Cronje’s earpiece) & not cheating per se like using jelly beans.

    • It is also rather a case of the pot calling the kettle black. It is only six months since Jadeja was disciplined for deliberately damaging the pitch in a test against NZ (a much worse crime than Smith’s) and there were the recent allegations against Kohli of using foreign substances to shine the ball. Kohli should put his own house in order before getting too up himself.

      • Agree AndyB, did any one notice where Kholi stands after a wicket or a DRS? Just in front of the stumps helping out the bowling foot marks. Unintentional? Bullsh*t, he knows what he doing.

    • These dressing rooms shouldn’t have live feeds of the games. The match is happening in front of them for god sake! Maybe just delay the stream into the dressing rooms by 30 seconds.

      Didn’t they stop players having mobile phones during games to remove the temptation of match fixing and other stuff?

  • Are the Australians cheats? Well … They’ve always pushed the rules as far as they can, and had a hard nosed attitude, certainly. However, if what they do is cheating then several other teams do the same, albeit in different ways. In this case, I’d probably get whatever disciplinary committee there is to spell out the mitigating circumstances (to leave open the possibility of a future ban) and fine Smith half his match fee, and a warning.

  • An excellent summary – apart from the reference to Stuart Broad not walking as an example of cheating. Every batsman is entitled to rely on the umpire to decide whether he is out. There is nothing in the rules requiring a batsman to assist the umpire in his decision. You may argue that Broad’s action was against the spirit of the game but it was not against the rules. Having been given out on numerous occasions either lbw to balls which I hit, or caught behind off the thigh pad I can understand Broad preferring to leave it to the umpire on the occasion in question.

    • If I play a game of snooker and my hand touches a ball, but nobody notices and I play on – that is cheating. Same as edging behind.

      But I got no problem with Broad doing what he did, it’s up to the umpire to give it

  • I agree with you James, Smith was desperate not to get out, desperate to keep Australia in the game by staying in, the atmosphere, unbelievable pressure out in the middle, Kholi sledging after every ball – it must of been pretty tough out there. Smith had a brain fart, reacted on impulse to Handscombe’s words (whatever they were) and just didn’t have a smart hat on in a very confusing and manic situation (Chris Robshaw – England v Wales, World Cup).

    He won’t do it again, I bet, and I also bet that any other test player will now think twice about looking in another direction upon a review, batsmen or fieldsman. A marker has been laid and players will behave.

    I can only think of one test player who would of done it, would continue to do it, to the point of waiting 30secs for feedback from the balcony – W.G. Grace!

  • How is this a bigger issue than Warner’s LBW which freeze-frame clearly shows hit him outside the line of off-stump yet up came the verdict ‘Umpire’s Call’?

  • Well personally I would prefer to put the matter behind, Smith’s excuse of a brain fart isn’t good enough, but I think he should be given a warning, nothing more. Also, will someone hand handscomb a book on cricketing laws, how has he been playing this long without knowing that? It’s called ‘decision review system’, not ‘dressing room review system’. I am getting a bit tired of all the unnecessary sledging and sending offs going on, hope it’s reduced in the 3rd test.

  • I’d echo most of those – it’s seeking to gain an unfair advantage but it’s nothing other teams won’t have tried in the past. A warning and a fine should suffice. On an unrelated note, Test cricket is clearly better when both sides utterly despise each other as is the case here. The third test could be a corker.

    • I rarely side with the Australians but is it just me or does Kohli’s character remind anyone else of the brilliant but unlamented Javed Miandad?

        • Seriously??? Ponting was a better batsmen, better fieldsman, better on the DRS and had better players to work with.

          Angry Ant Kholi is a unique character, passionate to the core, but until he can harness some of that energy correctly with his players, he will struggle. Ponting never had issues, they all just got on with winning aggressive games of cricket. Ok, Warne had an issue with Ponting, but so did Gilchrist with Warne, they still won truckloads. I believe Kholi’s players will get fed up with berated by him in public on the field, and getting grumpy when things aren’t going his way, which we have seen on a number of times in the last two tests – pressure, he’s just not that good at dealing with it yet.

  • Of course it’s cheating but sadly all the teams will be at it. It’s what happens when teams play win at all costs. Spirit of the game which every player in theory should play th game in is compeltley dead in the modern pro and amateur games.

    Either punish him properly and serve it as a deterrent or just make the right noises and let him off and let’s all keep pretending the game is great, is growing and all these players scoring buckets of runs on roads are world class

  • In my view Smith should have received a strong reprimand, but so should Kohli for the way he behaved.
    I couldn’t hear what he was shouting at the umpires, but it didn’t look very respectful to me.

    Darren Lehmann when asked, could have said, “Where is the video evidence of someone on our balcony or inside the dressing room signalling back to the centre?”
    In this era when everyone has a camera on them all the time, there’s nowhere to hide.

    Mr Kohli should be invited to present evidence to substantiate his complaints of systematic cheating or shut up.

  • I am in Australia at the moment and most of the press here seem to be using the Cook Model in writing about Smith. He is the Golden Boy, a role model and a great guy. Oh and yes he cheated but hey so what? They are turning on Kohli to deflect the flak away from Smith. What a familiar scenario and the cricket board doing nothing and that stalwart Chris Broad ditto…

  • He cheated, but it’s no worse than edging behind and not walking. It was just one of those in the moment things

    So typical of Australia though, “such an impeccable honourable man is Smithy, how dare you, just DISGUSTING how you can accuse him, HIM, of cheating, this sweet INNOCENT thoughtful caring CHARITABLE person”. Thoughts on Stuart Broad, chaps?

    • anyway, what a load of cobblers when you think about it. How many times have batsmen gone strolling off the pitch only for apoplectic balconies ordering them to turn around?

  • I tend to side with the idea that being able to analyse within the 15 seconds time frame makes much help from the balcony a little superfluous, although if they are watching the dressing room was watching live on a tv screen they might have a better gauge. Even so the tighter calls will not be able to be judged until a replay is generated, which is likely to be more than 15 seconds after the original incident.

  • Simple solution – all decisions to be referred to DRS as a matter of course (the technology will get better and faster, so very little time will be lost). Limiting the number of reviews always was a nonsense, as is “umpire’s call” – if any part of the ball is hitting the stumps, the batsman should be on his way.

  • Cricinfo suggest that they discussed it before the series but from the sound of it this was some time ago before there was the ICC clarification.

    Clearly smith did the wrong thing and wasn’t allowed to review. I doubt they planned anything because it was so obvious you would get the non striker to look over your shoulder if that was the case rather that both gazing up at the stand.

    Kholi of course then went the full Trump and alleged it was happening repeatedly without any evidence. The Cameras are on the players when they decide but no other instances have been shown which is why the ICC let it drop.


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