Hot reception awaits Aussies ... on the field
The gang’s all back together again, and while they don’t get to engage in any Test matches - which could really draw out all the tales of the good old days in 2018, some T20s and a few One-Day Internationals should still be fun.
Smith carried a much sunnier disposition compared to the last time he was in Johannesburg. Back in March 2018 he was in a dark and lonely place and was escorted through OR Tambo International by a massive police squad.
Smith admitted yesterday that everything has felt pretty normal on his return.
“It’s nice to be back playing in South Africa,” he said.
Folks have been courteous to him in restaurants around Johannesburg when he’s gone out for a meal and he was welcomed by some enthusiastic scholars when the Australian squad did a visit to a local school on Tuesday.
There was a brief moment of angst and reflection as he went through the door’s of the team’s hotel in Sandton - the same establishment the side were staying in in 2018 when he was suspended by Cricket Australia.
“Just walking into the hotel in Sandton, initially I was like: ‘the last time I left here it wasn’t pretty’. It wasn’t the best time in my life. But I’ve moved on from that, learned a lot over the last two years,” he said.
There’s been contact in those two years between Smith and some of the South African players involved in what was one of the most controversial cricket series that has ever been played.
“I texted with AB (de Villiers) and Faf, caught up with all of them in the IPL (last year), and at the World Cup there were a few conversations, it was chilled, it was all pretty normal.”
Relations may have thawed between the players - and Smith and his teammates may have been made to feel welcome in the last few days but that will change at what is expected to be a sold out Wanderers tomorrow night.
Asked if he anticipated a hostile reception during the first T20 International, Smith replied: “No doubt, no doubt. I think they’re hostile here at the best of times.”
South Africa’s team has also undergone many changes in the last two years, although the same trio of players who were crucial to South Africa in those four Tests, will be as important to their chances in this series.
Du Plessis, no longer captain will be looking to establish himself in the side as first lieutenant to De Kock. Cricket SA’s team director Graeme Smith said this week he hoped, that being relieved of the captaincy and all the responsibilities that come with the position, will free up Du Plessis to bat in manner the team needs.