Former Australian cricketer Shane Lee has claimed that Steve Smith’s behaviour in the Sydney Test is “disturbing” – and says he is “seeing the same signs” in the star batsman as he did in Australian players prior to the 2018 ball tampering scandal.
Speaking on his Afternoon Sport podcast, Lee – a 45-cap ODI representative for Australia and elder brother of fellow Australia quick Brett Lee – expressed his concern over what he saw as “real anger” from Smith.
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“I’m really really concerned about some of our behaviour. Steve Smith scored a fantastic hundred in Sydney and the way he reacted afterwards, I thought, there’s a real anger there,” Lee said. “It’s disturbing.”
That anger was also present, Lee believes, in the Australian team – and particularly David Warner- in the matches preceding the ball-tampering scandal during Australia’s 2018 tour of South Africa.
Lee says that, after two matches in which Warner was sledged consistently heavily from South African fans and players, “Cricket Australia did nothing at all,” to protect Warner from the abuse.
The sledging – particularly referencing Warner’s wife Candace – inflamed tensions to the point where Warner was involved in a scuffle with South African wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.
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The next match was the most infamous in recent Australian cricket history, with the Aussies caught using sandpaper to tamper with the ball.
Lee admits: “I think that Smith, Warner and Bancroft should have punished for what they did. It was appalling.”
But he believes that – just as he claims Warner was let down by CA prior to the incident – so too were the star trio failed by the organisation in the aftermath.
“But the way they were handled by Cricket Australia – they were given no support,” Lee said.
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Now, he believes Cricket Australia must act to take care of Smith and his Australian Test teammates in the wake of a media storm over their Sydney failure, which has also seen Smith accused of cheating when he rubbed out an Indian batsman’s crease markings.
Lee said: “You wind forward to this test: I’m seeing the same signs (as before Sandpapergate). I’m seeing someone like Smith who is getting really, really angry.”
“I’m feeling really worried about this guy,” he added.
“I really want Cricket Australia, or someone within that organisation to make sure this guy’s alright. Because he’s a champion batsman, and he’s not a cheat.
“We really need to look after these guys from a mental health perspective.”
Smith and his teammates have hit back at allegations he was attempting to cheat during the drawn Sydney Test match, and Lee also defended the superstar Australian.
“He wasn’t trying to cheat, but he shouldn’t be on the wicket,” Lee said.