Steven Smith has had a really tough week or so ever since being involved in the ball-tampering scandal, in the Newlands Test against South Africa that resulted in a one-year ban for him along with David Warner and a nine-month ban for Cameron Bancroft.
The 28-year old though, accepted full responsibility of his actions and the shame it brought to his country, in a tearful press conference on Thursday.
And ever since pictures and videos circulated of Smith’s emotional media addressal and his arrival in Sydney, Indian cricketers have come in support of the ex-Australian captain.
Among those who have come to the defence of the under-fire trio were Gautam Gambhir, Ravichandran Ashwin, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh and a few others as well.
Here we take a look at what they had to say about the crisis in Australian cricket.
I may be getting emotional but @stevesmith49 doesn’t look to me a cheat. Don’t know about u but I see in him a desperate leader trying to win a Test match for his country, his team. Yes, indeed, his methods were questionable but let’s not label him corrupt #BallTamperingScandalpic.twitter.com/xOxAM45QXM
— Gautam Gambhir (@GautamGambhir) March 29, 2018
The world simply wants to see you cry, once you have cried they will feel satisfied and live happily ever after. If only Empathy was not just a Word and people still had it. God give @stevesmith49 and Bancroft all the strength to come out of this.🙏
— Ashwin Ravichandran (@ashwinravi99) March 30, 2018
— Rohit Sharma (@ImRo45) March 29, 2018
To be honest it’s a bit sad to see @stevesmith49 like this Yes we all know he made a mistake and he is bearing the consequences for it but let’s not forget he’s been a great batsman and a good guy who’ got a lot of glory to Aus cricket also not the first person to tamper the ball
— yuvraj singh (@YUVSTRONG12) March 30, 2018
They are regretting and hurting and will have to live with the consequences of their act. Spare a thought for their families as they have much to endure along with the players. Time for all of us to take a step back and give them some space.
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) March 29, 2018
— Sourav Ganguly (@SGanguly99) March 29, 2018
— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) March 29, 2018
The first ball had not even been bowled at the Wanderers before new captain Tim Paine signalled a new era for Australian cricket.
At his suggestion, the Australian and South African teams lined up and shook hands with each other before starting play in the fourth and final Test of what has been a fractious and controversial series.
Appointed after former captain Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were banned following the third Test ball-tampering scandal, Paine said it was a gesture that he hoped would ease the tension between the two teams.
“I’ve been watching soccer,” he said. “I noticed they do that every game and I thought, cricket’s a gentleman’s game.
“I spoke to our players about bringing it in. It’s not something we’ll do every Test match but I think it’s not a bad way to start a Test series.
“It’s something we’ll probably do going forward. I think it’s just a good show of sportsmanship and respect.”
He said he had discussed the idea with South African skipper Faf du Plessis before the toss.
“He was happy to that. I think he thought it was a good idea.”
Paine admitted that relations between the teams needed to be improved.
“There’s been a lot of water gone under the bridge and a bit of tension between the two sides. We want to be super-competitive but we also want to respect the opposition and it was important to show that today.”
Paine said he had not thought too far ahead but he wanted to repair the damage done to the game by the events of the past week which had seen Smith, Warner and Bancroft banished over what has become dubbed ‘Sandpapergate’.
“We’re trying to take it one day at a time, trying to build back the respect of the cricket world, our fans and the cricket public,” said the 33-year-old Tasmanian.
“We know we’ve got a really long journey to get where we want to get to. The last couple of days have been the start of that long journey.”
There was a noticeable lack of the aggression that marked Australia’s approach in the first three Tests.
“I still think it was competitive,” said Paine after a day which had seen South Africa, 2-1 up in the series, pile up 313-6 at stumps.
“There wasn’t too much verbal going back and forth between the sides. We’ve spoken a bit about that as a group that going forward that’s not the way we’re going to play our cricket. It still felt like a Test match.
“We still want to keep a really competitive brand of cricket but there’s got to be times where we’re more respectful of our opposition, of the game of cricket.
“At times we’ve tended to push the boundaries as far as possible. We’ve seen that people probably don’t like that. It’s time for us to change. We’re happy to do that.
“I think it actually suits this group of players. We’re a different group of players than Australia have had for a long time. We haven’t got too many guys that like to verbalise and have that really hard-nosed Australian approach. We want to create an environment where guys can just come in and play cricket and be themselves.
“If we can achieve that I think we can achieve better results as well.
“It is important for us to realise how lucky we are and how privileged we are to be playing cricket for Australia.”
As the repercussions of the ball-tampering saga engulfed Australian cricket, the visitors took on South Africa in the final Test of the four-match series in Johannesburg.
The hosts finished the day on 313-6 after electing to bat first as they seek to win a maiden home Test series against the Australians.
We look at the key talking points from the first day as cricket took centre-stage once more.
AUSTRALIA RING IN THE CHANGES IN BALL-TAMPERING AFTERMATH
With Australian cricket experiencing one of its most turbulent weeks ever, the dust of the aftermath of the ball-tampering saga was yet to be shaken off when the side took to the field on Friday. Following the bans handed out to Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft by Cricket Australia, it was Tim Paine who led the tourists at the Wanderers after being named Australia’s 46th Test skipper.
Queensland opening pair Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns replaced Warner and Bancroft in the Aussie line-up after flying in straight from their Sheffield Shield final win. 12th man in the infamous Cape Town Test, Peter Handscomb, took up Smith’s role in the batting-card. The visitors were also dealt a late blow in the pace department with a tibial bone stress ruling Mitchell Starc out of the match, leading to an Australia debut for Chadd Sayers.
ELGAR LOSES CONCENTRATION AGAINST LYON
It was overcast batting conditions which greeted the two South African openers when they came out to bat. There was plenty of seam movement on offer for the pacers early on, causing Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram to be extra cautious. With the Australian pacers being generally erratic with their lines and lengths, Paine brought on Nathan Lyon early into the attack.
The off-spinner was getting plenty of movement for a day one track, something Elgar failed to account for as he looked to launch Lyon against the turn. The 30-year-old could only miscue a hit over the covers but it fell safe with no fielders in the vicinity. Daring to take on Lyon again, Elgar charged down the track to loft him over mid-on but could only get a leading edge due to the sharp turn and this time, Sayers was on hand to complete the catch.
MARKRAM PUTS PROTEAS MARGINALLY AHEAD WITH CLASSY TON
The future of South African cricket keeps getting brighter with each passing Aiden Markram innings. The 23-year-old opener has been a revelation in the entire series apart from a quite second Test at Port Elizabeth.
On Friday, Markram was flawless, showing a solid defensive technique whenever the Aussie bowlers got it right and pouncing on anything loose whenever they got it wrong. He was particularly punishing in the point and cover region at the start of his innings before showing his wide array of shots with some gorgeous straight drives. After forming a 89-run partnership for the second wicket with Hashim Amla, Markram registered his fourth Test ton in just his 17 innings-long career so far on the way to his highest score.
CUMMINS’ AND SAYERS’ LATE BLOWS PULL AUSTRALIA BACK
With only two wickets coming in the first two sessions of the day, Australia were staring down the barrel of a tough day at the office. Cummins though, kept persevering and got his reward with the wickets of the centurion and skipper Faf du Plessis off consecutive deliveries in the final session of the day.
Even after that double-blow, South Africa were motoring along nicely with De Villiers looking on song after registering another Test fifty. Then, debutant Sayers struck twice in three deliveries to remove De Villiers and night-watchman Kagiso Rabada. These four wickets in the final session helped the visitors turn the tide of the match after the hosts had threatened to run away with it.
Those crucial strikes will mean Paine and his men will have their tails up slightly going into the second day.