Steve Smith has revealed he chose to turn a blind eye to the ball-tampering plan while it was being hatched on day three during the fateful Newlands Test in March this year.
Speaking to the media in Sydney for the first time since his teary-eyed press conference upon his arrival from South Africa in April, Smith said he “walked away” from the site when he gained cognisance of the ball-tampering ploy.
“I don’t want to know about it,” Smith said, when asked about his first reaction. “And I walked away.”
Steve Smith has spent most of his ban from international and professional domestic cricket playing cricket in any way he's been able to.
Should he have used it to broaden his horizons?https://t.co/QqCHEQZKzl
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) December 20, 2018
Since then, it’s been a topsy-turvy ride for all of Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, the other conspirators, as all of them have been serving lengthy bans imposed by Cricket Australia.
“It’s been documented pretty heavily what went on,” said Smith. “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 a potential for something to happen. It went out and happened on the field. I had the opportunity to stop it rather than say I didn’t want to know anything about it.
ICYMI: “Everyone makes mistakes; it’s about the way you respond to it that’s really important."
Steve Smith is the focus of a controversial new advert in Australia.https://t.co/7qC5Wno6NM
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) December 19, 2018
“That was my failure of leadership for that and I have taken responsibility for that.”
The incident also gave birth to speculations that the Newlands incident wasn’t a one-off and that ball-tampering was prevalent in Australian cricket. But Smith denied such allegations.
“As far as I’m concerned and aware, that was the first time that it had happened,” Smith said.
“I can’t really judge what other teams around the world do. I know that in any game that you play you want the ball to try and move at some point in the game.
“You want to do it in a legal way and allow it to play its course that way.”
It’s still more than three months before his ban ends, in March 2019, and Smith is focussed on making the best use of the time at hand to prepare for a possible comeback at next year’s World Cup as well as the away Ashes series that follows.
He has played T20 leagues in Canada and the Caribbean and played club cricket for Sutherland since his return to competitive cricket.
Incorrectly characterised as a nice guy who cares more about being liked than winning, Tim Paine showed in Perth that he's more than capable of leading an Australia team that plays aggressive cricket, writes @Yas_Wisden.https://t.co/GhDMeOl3GQ
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) December 18, 2018
“The next three months is about just preparing as well as I can to hopefully be apart of the World Cup and the Ashes,” he said.
“At the moment I am pretty content with where I am at. We’ll see what the future will hold.”
And while Smith has been away, Australia have had their own problems to counter. They recently arrested their six-match win-less streak in Tests by winning against India at Perth, after having lost the last three Tests in South Africa, one out of two against Pakistan in the UAE and the series opener against India at home.
Smith admitted the going has been tough for his team but heaped praise on his successor as captain, Tim Paine, lauding him for his “exceptional job” under “difficult circumstances”.
“Tim Paine has done an exceptional job and [so has] Aaron Finch taking over the one-day side,” Smith said.
“He’s had a tough start to that with the performances of the team. If I get back and play under them I will do everything I can to help them out and help Australia have success.”
On Australia’s tough journey in Tests, Smith said, “It’s been tough at times, particularly when the boys haven’t played their best in a couple of games and it’s been hard watching and not knowing I can go out and help them.
“I was really proud of the way the boys played last week in Perth. I thought they were magnificent.
“I thought Tim Paine’s leadership has been exceptional since taking over as captain. He was faced with difficult circumstances to begin with and he’s done a terrific job.”