Australia's coaching staff was "horrified" when captain Steven Smith looked to the dressing room for advice on a review during the Bengaluru Test, assistant coach David Saker has said. Saker also described as "absurd" suggestions that Australia systematically used such forbidden communication between on-field and off-field personnel when deciding on whether to ask for reviews.
After the heated final day in Bengaluru, India's captain Virat Kohli claimed that he had seen Australia's players look to the dressing room for review advice on two occasions earlier in the match, and was quick to object when Smith did so while batting. Smith later owned up to his mistake, calling it a "brain fade", and the ICC has since confirmed that no sanctions would arise from the Test.
Australia's integrity has been vigorously defended by coach Darren Lehmann and Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland, while India spinner R Ashwin compared the Smith incident to something out of "an Under-10 game", saying it was "completely unheard of". But if the Smith incident surprised the Indians, Saker said it was equally jarring to the Australians.
"It's pretty much absurd," Saker said of suggestions that Australia used such a communication system. "I think when actually Steven Smith did look up, we were more horrified than anyone else because we had never seen that before. We haven't got any elaborate sign system, and when he did do that, it was quite a surprise to us. But that's never happened to me anywhere in my time in cricket."
After the match, Smith said he had consulted his batting partner Peter Handscomb when given out lbw, and Handscomb had suggested Smith look to the dressing room for advice. Smith said that he did so was "a brain fade", while Handscomb has since said that his own relative inexperience in using the DRS meant he had not known his suggestion to Smith was against the rules.
"It's still new in my international career, so I haven't had a lot to do with the DRS and I'm now a lot more familiar with it," Handscomb said. "Just completely unaware that you couldn't do that. But now I know - I've been well and truly informed and just looking forward to moving on from this."
Although Kohli did not use the word "cheat" in his post-match press conference, the term has been used in the media following on from Kohli's accusations. Saker said that while it hurt the Australians to be described in such a way - "you should have to back up what you say," he said - they would aim to brush off the issue and focus on the third Test in Ranchi.
"It's really offensive," Saker said. "Probably the worst thing you can be called is cheats. That's an offensive thing and we have never done something like that and never will. We will rub it off, get on to Ranchi, and try and win there."
However, Saker said that while he was unaware of any team using signals from the dressing room to indicate whether a player should ask for a review, he conceded that the length of time allowed - players have 15 seconds from the ball becoming dead in which they are permitted to ask for a review - meant that it was not implausible.
"I think the ICC might be looking at something, maybe shortening the time the captains are given," Saker said. "Because there is a lot of time, that could actually happen if you wanted to do it. I've never seen it and I've never heard anybody ever talk about it until yesterday, so as I said, it's nothing that we've ever done and I've never heard of."
The DRS controversy aside, the second Test was a disappointing one for Australia after they took a 1-0 series lead in Pune. They had also held the advantage after the first day in Bengaluru. Saker said that while the pitch made batting difficult, it had at least made for a fascinating Test match - though one that was difficult for Australia's coaching staff to watch towards the end.
"It was horrible being a coach," he said. "I can only imagine how hard it was for the players. That was a seriously tense game and we can talk about the wicket probably wasn't up to Test standard. But it made for a fantastic game of Test cricket, so you can argue it was up to Test standards."