Steve Smith says he always felt that he had the support of the Australian public after slipping back into the captaincy of the Test team this week, capping a remarkable career revival. In March 2018, Smith was enemy number one in the wake of a ball-tampering scandal that shook cricket. It was a long road back, a two-year leadership ban and one-year playing suspension. But the 32-year-old’s redemption was all but complete last month when he was named vice-captain to new skipper Pat Cummins when Tim Paine quit over lewd text messages, even though not everyone agreed with the decision.
By a quirk of fate, Smith was then thrust back into the top job for the first time in nearly four years for the ongoing second Ashes Test against England at Adelaide when Cummins was ruled out hours beforehand over a Covid scare. “I woke up… I looked at my phone and saw two missed calls from Patty and a message from JL (coach Justin Langer) saying, ‘Are you awake?'” Smith told about how he learned he would again captain the team. “I wanted to lead the side in Patty’s absence and continue on what he started last week. I’m looking forward to working with Patty in the future and helping him in any way that I can grow as a leader, and help the team have success,” Smith added, referring to Australia’s nine-wicket thrashing of England in the first Test.
So unprepared was Smith that he didn’t have his captain’s blazer with him and had to borrow Cummins’, which was a size too big as he walked out for the toss on Thursday.
It was a far cry from 2018 when a distraught Smith tearfully fronted a press conference admitting to a “failure of leadership” after the “Sandpaper-gate” scandal in South Africa that saw him sent home in disgrace.
“His communication with the team after play and before play in the morning, he’s very clear,” said Labuschagne, who has made the number three slot his own, with Smith batting at four. “It’s the first time I’ve been captained by Steve and it’s nice to see him in that leadership role,” he added.
Despite his past, Smith remains broadly popular in Australia and he was given a standing ovation when he walked out to bat. “I always felt like I had the support of people here in Australia and it’s always special when you lead your country,” he said.