The ICC increased its penalties for ball tampering since the Cape Town affair last year but they still pale in comparison with the time Smith, Warner and Bancroft were ordered to have out of the game. Smith is still serving a captaincy ban and Warner is barred from leadership roles for life. But while the Australian Cricketers’ Association has argued since last year that the sanctions were too harsh, lobbying to have them reduced after the release of the Longstaff report into CA culture, Smith maintained the latest tampering episode has not left a bitter taste in his mouth.
“Everyone is different, every board is different, and the way they deal with certain issues,” Smith said.
“For me, I copped it on the chin … it is what it is. I know Nicholas, I’ve played a bit of cricket with him and he’s a talented player and someone with a bright future. I think he’ll learn from his mistake and move past it. I played with him in the Caribbean league at Barbados. I think he’s going to be an exceptional player in one-ball cricket.
“I don’t feel hard done by. It was a long time ago now. I’ve moved past it and I’m focusing on the present.”
Speaking ahead of his first Test for Australia on home soil in nearly two years, Smith said he now felt far better equipped to deal with the demands of international cricket and the mental strain and fatigue that comes with it.
Two days before the infamous third Test at Newlands, Smith had told reporters he felt confident with his batting but conceded “maybe now my mind is not in as good a space as it was”.
More than 18 months down the track, CA is grappling with the issue of mental health after three players – Glenn Maxwell, Nic Maddinson and Will Pucovski – withdrew from Australian teams or selection contention in a matter of weeks.
Smith said he is a lot more aware of his mental wellbeing than he was in South Africa last year, as is the whole Australian set-up.
“Don’t get me wrong, that’s no excuse on my behalf [for the Cape Town incident]. No excuses there,” he said. “But I think it’s great those conversations [with coaches and staff] are happening.
Of course, I’ll still make mistakes, I’m a human being, we all do.
“I’m able to I think catch my mind, where that’s going and the decisions I’m making are a lot more clear with what I’m trying to do. Every decision you make has got an outcome, good bad and ugly, whatever, I’m able to think of how it’s going to look before I make that decision a lot of the time.
“Of course, I’ll still make mistakes, I’m a human being, we all do. But being able to catch yourself and the way you’re thinking is something I’ve learnt and something I’ll continue to work on and continue and get better at.”
Chris Barrett is Sports Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.