Steve Smith has opened up for the first time since the ball-tampering scandal earlier in the year in South Africa which led to the then Australia captain being banned by the board until March 2019. In his first media address since facing the journalists at the Sydney Airport on return from South Africa, Smith admitted there were some dark days where he didn’t want to get out of bed. He credited the support of close friends and family in keeping him in good spirits.
“I’m going OK,” Smith said at the SCG.”I’ve had tough days, I’ve had my ups and downs. But I’ve been really fortunate to have a close group of people around me to help me through those difficult times,” he told reporters at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“There have been some dark days where I haven’t wanted to get out of bed and things like that. But I’ve had a close group of people around me to help me know that it’s OK. I’ve made a mistake and it was a big mistake and I’m trying to move on from that and improve as a person.”
He also shed light on the details of the ball tampering attempt in itself. He said he had learned of the plan when he overheard a conversation in the team’s dressing room at Newlands. “I think it’s been documented pretty heavily, sort of, what went on. For me in the room, I walked past something and had the opportunity to stop it and I didn’t do it and that was my leadership failure. It was the potential for something to happen and it went on and happened out in the field.”
“I had the opportunity to stop it at that point rather than say, ‘I don’t want to know anything about it’ and that was my failure of leadership. And you know I’ve taken responsibility for that.”
Smith declined to name the players involved but reiterated that he had told them, “I don’t want to know about it”, and then walked away.
Smith’s 12-month ban, for his involvement in the plan to deliberately bring in a foreign object (sandpaper) to artificially alter the condition of the ball in the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town this year, concludes at the end of March 2019. First possible assignment on his agenda could be the ICC 50-over World Cup in United Kingdom.
“I’m just moving forward day to day, doing what I need to do to prepare to hopefully get another opportunity to play for Australia and if that’s the World Cup and Ashes, so be it.”
“No doubt the English crowd will be incredibly hostile. I’m ready for that if that happens. I’ll keep working hard and if I get that opportunity again, that’d be great.”
While serving his ban, Smith has played in T20 competitions in Canada and the Caribbean, featured for Sutherland in NSW Premier Cricket and has batted in the nets against Australia’s Test pace trio Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
While he has been on the sidelines, Australia have endured mixed results. The ODI team was whitewashed in England and lost to South Africa a home for the first time since 2009 and the T20 side lost in the final of the tri-series in Zimbabwe and later drew with India at home, while the Test outfit played valiantly in a losing cause vs Pakistan in the UAE and only this week levelled the series against Virat Kohli’s India in Perth.
Smith admitted it’s been tough watching his former teammates struggle knowing he cannot help them with a match-winning performance. But Smith praised the team’s efforts for their 146-run win at Perth Stadium and the captaincy of Tim Paine, who was made interim captain in the wake of the Newlands episode before getting the job on a full-time basis.
“It’s been tough (watching) at times, particularly when the boys haven’t played their best in a couple of games,” he said. “It’s been hard watching and knowing that I can’t go out and help them. But I was really proud of the way the boys played last week in Perth. I thought they were magnificent and I think Tim Paine’s leadership has been exceptional since taking over as captain. He’s obviously been faced with difficult circumstances to begin with but he’s done a terrific job.”
Away from the field, Smith has also tested the waters of his brand power with a tie-up with the local arm of Britain’s Vodafone Group, shooting an ad which played on his shame and hopes of redemption.