Steve Smith’s return to South Africa, has been entirely normal
Steve Smith’s return to South Africa, has been entirely normal.
In restaurants people have been courteous, the kids at a school the Australian team visited on Tuesday didn’t hide their excitement about spending time with him and the other players - life in general has been pretty good.
It’s a far cry from the last time he was here in 2018. Then he was escorted through OR Tambo International by squad of SA Policemen, the eyes of the world on him in the immediate aftermath of a ball-tampering scandal that had an enormous fallout for him and Australian cricket.
“It’s nice to be back playing in South Africa,” Smith said on Wednesday following a lengthy net session. The last time I was here things didn’t end overly well, but I’ve also got really fond memories of playing here.”
Smith was one of the central protagonists in ‘le affaire sandpaper’ that rocked the Australian team and the sport in general in that country during the contentious 2018 Test series held here. Then as Australian captain he was involved in an initial attempt at a cover up of the ball being roughed up with sandpaper. He along with David Warner, who is also in the Australian squad for the limited overs series’ against South Africa, was suspended for 12 months.
He admitted to one brief moment recalling the last time he was in the hotel in Sandton where the team are staying again this year. “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.”
Going out for a meal in Johannesburg in the last few days has been fairly smooth too. “I’ve been to a few restaurants and people have been lovely. Guys have come up and taken some photos and been really nice. It’s been normal, compared to when I’ve been here previously,” said Smith.
Smith has had a year back playing the game, including the World Cup in England followed by a very successful Ashes series where he copped a lot of flack from crowds there.
Asked if he anticipated a hostile recpetion at what will be a packed Wanderers for the first T20 International on Friday night, Smith replied: “No doubt, no doubt. I think they’re hostile here at the best of times. It doesn’t bother me too much. Justin (Langer) said the other day that we had the dress rehearsal in England, there was a fair bit going on there. I don’t notice it, particularly when I’m batting. Maybe a little bit when I’m fielding, but then again, it’s just words, it doesn’t affect me, it’s about getting on with the job.”