Steve Smith has pleaded his innocence after being embroiled in a third Test scandal that has seen him painted as a "cheater" in some quarters.
The former Aussie captain was accused of deliberately scuffing his foot on the SCG pitch during the drawn third Test.
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Footage was shown during a break in play on day five of Smith shadow-batting on the pitch, before he used his studs to scuff up the batsman's markings at the crease.
Stump cameras showed Smith pretending to face up to a delivery before brushing his foot across the crease a number of times.
Pant was then forced to mark his guard again.
Smith was condemned for what many perceived to be a deliberate act of gamesmanship, but the 31-year-old insists there was nothing malicious in his actions.
‘Plain cheating’: The cricket world has turned on Steve Smith after his petty act caught on camera pic.twitter.com/2w9BqcuSYs
— Andrew Backhouse (@Andytwit123) January 11, 2021
“I have been quite shocked and disappointed by the reaction to this," Smith told News Corp.
"It’s something I do in games to visualise where we are bowling, how the batter is playing our bowlers and then out of habit I always mark centre.
“It’s such a shame that this and other events have taken away from what was a great batting performance by India yesterday.”
Former England star Darren Gough was among those to slam Smith after calling the batsman's antics "plain cheating".
Indian great Virender Sehwag also called out the dubious tactic on social media.
“Tried all the tricks including Steve Smith trying to remove Pant’s guard marks from the crease,” he pointed out on Twitter.
Former England player and coach David Lloyd described it as "ridiculous behaviour", while former Australian spinner Brad Hogg was also unimpressed.
“Batsman’s area. Not his space to mark!” Hogg posted.
Skipper backs Smith over controversy
Aussie captain Tim Paine on Tuesday leapt to the defence of his star batsman, insisting he does it all the time while shadow batting.
“I have spoken to Steve about it," Paine said.
“He is really disappointed with the way it has come across.
“If you watch Steve Smith play Test cricket that is something he does every single game five or six times a day. He does this a lot.
“He is always in the batting crease batting. As we know he has those many Steve Smith quirks. One of them is that he was always marking centre. He was certainly not changing (Pant’s) guard.
“I imagine if he was the Indian players would have kicked up a bit of a stink at the time. I have seen Steve do it many times in Tests and games I have played against him.
“He likes to visualise how he is going to play. Yesterday you could see him up there playing shots as a left-hander to where he wanted Lyono to pitch the ball.”
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