Australian coach Justin Langer has launched a passionate defence of under-fire batsman Steve Smith after cameras captured him scuffing the crease during the drawn Test against India at the SCG.
The former captain's actions were slammed by retired international stars Michael Vaughan and Virenda Sehwag, who assumed his scratching was an effort to remove the guard of an on-song Rishabh Pant.
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Former England fast bowler Darren Gough went as far as describing the batsman's antics as "plain cheating".
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 told News Corp that he was "shocked and disappointed" by the condemnation he'd received in the wake of the incident, insisting there was nothing malicious in his actions.
“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.
The incident follows Smith's ban for his role in the Cape Town ball-tampering saga, with critics not missing a chance to pile on ahead of the series-deciding fourth Test in Brisbane from Friday.
The Aussie coach is having none of it though and delivered an unprompted defence of the 31-year-old on Wednesday.
"I literally cannot believe some of the rubbish I read about Steve Smith," Langer said.
"Absolute load of rubbish; if anyone knows Steve Smith, he's a bit quirky and he does some weird things and we've all laughed about it for the last couple of years.
"Anyone who suggests for one millisecond he was trying to do something untoward, they're way out of line, absolutely out of line.
"That wicket was that flat and it was like concrete; you need 15-inch spikes to make an indent on the crease ... seriously.
"That was absolutely ludicrous, and in the last couple of years since he's been back, he's been exemplary on and off the field.
"He's let his bat do the talking, he was abused like I've never seen anything through England and he just kept smiling and letting his bat do the talking ... give me a break."
Langer goes into bat for Smith, Paine
Describing the scuffing as a subconscious routine, Langer admitted Smith would probably be more aware of his actions now, while teammate Nathan Lyon also came to his defence.
"I'm really disappointed with the way that everyone has jumped on the back of him; he's played close to 80-odd Test matches and I think he's done that in every Test match he's ever played," Lyon said.
"Even though we weren't batting in the rest of that Test, he was still thinking about batting and he does it to help me as well.
"He's looking at where I should pitch the ball, what pace I need to bowl on that wicket, so it's all about conversation."
Langer also went into bat for under-fire wicketkeeper Tim Paine, who three catches on day five, was fined 15 per cent of his match fee for dissent toward the umpire and was also caught on the stump microphone mocking veteran Ravichandran Ashwin during India's incredible final day batting display.
Paine's captaincy was labelled "hopeless" by India legend Sunil Gavaskar, who also suggested that his time as skipper was up.
While Australia's coach admitted it wasn't his captain's greatest match, he was quick to throw his support behind the 36-year-old.
"Do I have faith in Tim Paine? You have no idea how much faith I've got in Tim Paine," Langer said.
"He didn't have his best day, no doubt about that, but after three years he has hardly put a hair out of place, he's been outstanding as the Australian captain in everything he does, and he had a frustrating day. We've got to cut him some slack surely.
"But having said that when you set a standard as high as he does and as we do, we understand we're going to get criticised when we fall below that."
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