For the first time since his career was turned upside down, Steven Smith has spoken about the moments inside the Newlands dressing room when he ignored the blatant attempts at ball-tampering that were going on in front of him.
Giving his first press conference in Australia since his tearful return to the country at the end of March, Smith revealed how he walked past team-mates David Warner and Cameron Bancroft as the plan to use sandpaper on the ball was discussed.
Asked what he said in that fateful moment, Smith answered: “‘I don’t want to know about it’ and walked away – that was my chance where I could have stopped something from happening.
“For me in the room I walked past something and had the opportunity to stop it and I didn’t do it. That was my leadership failure. Something happened out on the field and I had the opportunity to stop it at that point rather than say I don’t want to know anything about it, that was my failure and I’ve taken responsibility for that.”
“There have been some dark days where I haven’t wanted to get out of the bed”
He was, however, adamant that it was the first time he had experienced ball-tampering in the Australian dressing room and also insisted his relationship with Warner, who has previously been accused of ‘throwing Smith under a bus’ by not taking more responsibility for his role, remains “fine”.
“As far as I’m aware that was the first time it had happened,” Smith said. “I can’t judge what other teams around the world do. In any game you play you want the ball to move, but obviously you want to do it in a legal way.”
Smith has returned to the public spotlight in recent days with a Vodafone advertisement, which is being aired at prime time during the BBL, followed by his appearance in front of cameras at the SCG, which he admitted was meant to have happened before the commercial went on air.
In the advert, which is in support of mental health for which Smith will be making a financial contribution to the Gotcha 4 Life charity, he speaks about the “dark days” he has experienced since the events of Newlands, thoughts he echoed on Friday.
“I’m going okay now. Initially after South Africa I was going through a bit, in a pretty dark space and had some tough days but they are few and far between now. Still have my moments, ups and downs, but I’m going okay and heading in the right direction.
“I’ve had tough days, but I’ve been really fortunate to have a close group of people around me who have helped me. There have been some dark days where I haven’t wanted to get out of the bed. A close group of people let me know it’s okay. I made a mistake, quite a big mistake, now I’m trying to move and improve as a person.”
Smith was stripped of the captaincy and handed a one-year ban as was Warner, while Bancroft was given a nine-month sanction. Bancroft’s ban finishes on December 29 and he is expected to return for the Perth Scorchers in the BBL straightaway, but Smith and Warner won’t be available until the end of March. Both have been playing grade cricket this season while training with New South Wales, with Smith also heavily involved with the Sydney Sixers.
Smith was due to head to the Bangladesh Premier League, but that deal has been scrubbed, meaning his next top-level action will be the Pakistan Super League in February. Depending on the dates for Australia’s one-day series against Pakistan – the matches could start in April after the bans elapse – he could make an international comeback in that series. He also has an IPL deal with Rajasthan Royals.