Steven Smith reopens DRS controversy; slams Virat Kohli for making 'rubbish' claims

Steven Smith Virat Kohli
Steven Smith has expressed surprise at Virat Kohli's swift change in demeanour

What's the story?

In his autobiography titled The Journey, Australian captain Steven Smith has reopened the infamous controversy relating to the Decision Review System (DRS) during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy held earlier this year. He questioned Indian captain Virat Kohli's drastic change in behaviour from the Test series to the ensuing IPL season. In an interview with ESPNCricinfo surrounding his book, the right-hander also termed Kohli's accusations pertaining to the DRS as 'rubbish'.

Smith wrote, "It wasn't until afterwards that I realised what a talking point it had become, fuelled by Kohli's post-match claims that we'd called on off-field assistance twice earlier in the match to help our on-field deliberations. As far as I was concerned, we'd never tried to consult with the dressing room beforehand and although he said he'd brought those previous occasions to the notice of the umpires, I can say categorically that we were never spoken to by either those umpires or match referee Chris Broad about any such breaches in protocol."

"The idea of getting messages from the sidelines for that purpose was not a tactic we as a team ever spoke about and. I can't work out what he was referring to in his remarks. There was never anything further on the matter from the ICC and Virat never detailed the incidents he was referring to. And during the brief interactions we had - including at the captain's briefing for the IPL as that tournament followed the series - he was friendly and it was as if any ill-feeling he may have had over the incident had disappeared. It was and still is all a big mystery to me."

The context

The fiercely contested Test series between India and Australia in February-March this year saw some acrimonious incidents on and off the field. Having been given out leg before during their fourth-innings pursuit on a rapidly deteriorating pitch in Bengaluru, Smith was seen gesturing towards the visitors' dressing room for inputs on DRS after consulting with his batting partner Peter Handscomb. The incident set off a slew of verbal tirades from both camps.

The heart of the matter

When Cheteshwar Pujara alerted Kohli to Smith's misdemeanour, the Indian captain duly brought the occurrence to the notice of the on-field umpires. Nigel Llong intervened at the appropriate moment and sent the batsman on his way. Upon securing the vital wicket of the in-form Australian skipper, India cruised to a euphoric 75-run victory in Bengaluru and eventually clinched the series 2-1 in the decider at Dharamsala.

Extra Cover: Steven Smith turned down England and New Zealand to play for Australia

At the end of the second Test, Smith termed his error as a 'brain fade'. However, his Indian counterpart did not buy into the excuse and lashed out at him when his turn came in the post-match press conference. The intense verbal exchanges generated the vast majority of headlines during the 4-match series. By the time the hosts reclaimed the coveted Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the DRS episode had caused irreparable damage to the relationships between the two sets of players.

What's next?

Considering the impact of the storm that the DRS incident had triggered, Kohli will certainly be given an opportunity for his rebuttal of Smith's accusations. It remains to be seen if the Indian captain is measured in his response or responds to his Australian counterpart in kind.

Author's take

Several months have passed since the 2017 Border-Gavaskar Trophy came to a conclusion. Although it is perfectly understandable that Smith would want to give his side of the story in his autobiography, he could have trodden carefully in order to prevent another blow-out from the controversy.

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Edited by Arvind Sriram
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