The captain and the curator: Smith cops parting shot

Test captain Steve Smith has come under fire over his criticism of the SCG pitch from the ground's retiring curator.

Smith is preparing to lead Australia in the Test series against England and as one of the world's best batsmen will be squarely in the sights of Joe Root's tourists over the next two months.

On Thursday, however, he received a pre-Ashes broadside from elsewhere, with departing SCG curator Tom Parker singling him out over his rating of of the venue's pitch as poor last season.

Smith's assessment was made after a noteworthy Sheffield Shield match between NSW and Victoria last November in the wake of Australia's humiliating defeat to South Africa in Hobart and it contributed to the SCG being judged as the worst major first-class venue in Australia.

Victoria captain Matthew Wade and match referee Daryl Harper disagreed with the poor rating in a post-match meeting with Smith and Parker. The curator, who was farewelled by SCG staff and executives on Thursday, has now taken issue with it publicly.

"That was very disappointing," Parker said. "Especially when the match referee clearly stated it was an unfair criticism. I'm always accepting of criticism but just because someone has had a bad day ... every excuse under the sun was used for me to be the fall guy.

"The problem is when you get someone of that stature mark it as poor everyone stands up and says there must be something wrong. You'll never beat an elite sportsperson."

The match in question came in the midst of extraordinary times for Australian cricket. Smith had fronted up after the second Test to say he was embarrassed by the capitulation to the Proteas at Bellerive Oval and Australian players were ordered back to a round of state cricket that doubled as an opportunity for batsmen to find form and for selectors to find some new players.

A Peter Handscomb double century ensured he became one of the newcomers, with his selection announced soon after the match, while Wade was also brought back into the Test fold. NSW were bowled out for 192 in their second innings but Nic Maddinson was also selected to make his Australian debut.

Parker has admitted he was worn down by criticism by players and administrators and said the SCG's unwanted standing among other venues had prompted an investigation that "all kept pointing back to that particular match".

His exit after 20 years will leave a new curator, Adam Lewis, preparing the Sydney wicket for a potential Ashes decider in January.

"I just hope in situations like that that the new curator can grasp those things and try and always fight for the truth," Parker said.

Smith was approached by Fairfax Media through a Cricket Australia spokesperson about Parker's comments.

The curator was also left scratching his head about the reaction to the scores in the first round of this season's shield, in which the pink ball was used and batsmen largely struggled. Only Western Australia and Queensland made totals above 300 while South Australia were bowled out for 92 in their first innings Tasmania for 63 in their second.

"If that was here at the SCG there would be letters and correspondence going backwards and forwards between the [SCG] Trust and Cricket Australia and [Cricket] NSW," he said. "In no way, shape or form do I condemn any of those games because it's called a game of cricket."

In a farewell overlooking the ground on Thursday, the SCG Trust presented Parker with a replica ball fired in a clay oven and made from Bulli soil, a traditional gift for curators.

This story The captain and the curator: Smith cops parting shot first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.