South Africa v India, 2nd Test, Durban, 3rd day December 28, 2010

Sreesanth, Smith and sparks

The contest between the two top teams in the world is heating up, and some of it is boiling over, with Paul Harris alleging that "it must have been something personal [said by Sreesanth] for Graeme Smith to react the way he did". The incident Harris talked about was when Smith was seen pointing his bat at Sreesanth, and sharing stern words. It came three balls after Sreesanth had hit Smith on the finger with a sharp delivery, and there seemed to have been words exchanged then. Harris, however, made the allegation in the good faith that Smith doesn't react on the field unless a personal comment is made to him.

"For Grame to act the way he did - we all know Graeme really well - he doesn't react to situations like that," Harris said. "If it was personal - and I have heard it was - I think we should cut that out of the game.

"I know Sreesanth has said a few personal things on the field, which is not great and we don't condone that. If he wants to do that, he can do that. It must have been something personal for Graeme to react the way he did."

This was not the first time that words had been exchanged in this series. It was not even the first time on this particular day, for that matter. When Zaheer Khan came out to bat and swung and missed twice, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Smith were in his ear. When Ishant Sharma got out, the umpires were not sure he had done so to a legitimate delivery, and Ishant waited next to the South African huddle for the third umpire to relay his verdict. There were words spoken then too, and Ishant was seen turning back and responding to what looked like a verbal send-off.

VVS Laxman was quick to mention the earlier incidents when the Smith-Sreesanth run-in was brought up, but also sought to play things down. "I am not sure what happened but saying that, it's a series between two top teams," he said. "In a keen tussle like that, it is bound to happen. It's not only when Sreesanth said something to Smith, but even their bowlers came at us hard. It's bound to happen because both the teams want to win this game badly. [These things happen] when the intensity at which the game is played is high."

Harris seemed to be in agreement with the intensity, but repeated the bit about getting personal. "The game has been played in very good spirit," he said. "It's No. 1 v No. 2. Every now and then it will boil over, it's Test cricket. That's what people want to see. Even we want to see it played hard on the field, but not getting personal. That's where we draw the line, it's a fine line."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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