Since the time Eric Akinson, the Barbados pacer was alleged to have used hair cream to alter the condition of the ball in the late 1950s, ball-tampering has been a controversial subject in the world of cricket. Over some time, many more such incidents have sent shockwaves through the cricketing landscape.
Last year, Steve Smith, the then Australian captain, alongside David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were handed bans by Cricket Australia for their role in the ball-tampering incident in the Cape Town Test. Nicholas Pooran, the skilled West Indies batsman, became the newest to be barred by the International Cricket Council for ‘changing the condition of the ball’ during the third ODI versus Afghanistan in Lucknow.
Smith, who has made an impressive comeback since serving his one-year ban, hoped that Pooran will learn from his mistake and overcome the setback. He also added that he doesn’t feel hard done by CA’s one-year ban.
“Everyone is different, every board is different, and the way they deal with certain issues. 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 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. I played with him (Pooran) in the Caribbean league at Barbados. I think he’s going to be an exceptional player in white-ball cricket.”
Incidentally, going into the Cape Town Test, Smith had said “maybe now my mind is not in as good a space as it was” after a long-drawn summer, which included a five-match Ashes series versus England. The bedrock of the Australian batting unit added that he has learned from the mistake, and his decision-making process has become better with time.
“I’m able to I think to 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,” Smith noted. “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 learned and something I’ll continue to work on and continue and get better at,” he added.
Smith also opined about the mental health challenges surrounding cricket and said that it has become tough to cope with the hectic schedules. Recently, the Australian trio of Glenn Maxwell, Nic Maddinson and Will Pucovski decided to take a break from the game to deal with mental health issues.
“I think that’s something that we’re getting a lot better at. Communication with the coach, relevant people that are involved where we can have those honest conversations with about how we’re tracking. It is a pretty hectic schedule nowadays. It’s bloody tough to sustain it for long periods, particularly I think for the fast bowlers. It’s extremely difficult what they put themselves through. It’s great that those conversations are happening and we’re trying to keep guys as mentally and physically fresh as they can be.
“Don’t get me wrong, that’s no excuse on my behalf. No excuses there. But I think it’s great those conversations are happening. We fill out daily how we’re feeling, how we slept… the sleep gets a big red now and again. We fill out a wellness thing every day. The coach and psych and head of team performance look at our markers daily and it’s upon us, to be honest in the way we go about that as well.
“They can see how we’re tracking and if there’s a change in behavior, if you’re feeling ill or not sleeping well or feeling a bit off, they’re aware of it. That can sort of start a conversation. Why is your sleep bad? What’s going on? Why are you feeling a bit off today? It’s good that they do that. It’s good for guys’ mental health and wellbeing as well.”
The opening Test of the series against Pakistan at the Gabba will turn out to be Smith’s first Test in Australia in almost two years. The seasoned batsman, who was in superb form in the Ashes, said that he was excited to get back to playing Test cricket at home.
“I’m pretty chilled about everything at the moment,” he said. “I’ve been back playing for Australia for a little while now and even my first Test back in England I didn’t think too much of it. I was just playing a game and doing what I love. It’s great to be playing my first Test back in Australia, I’m excited about that. I’ve had some success personally at the Gabba and we usually play pretty well as a team here. I’m excited about getting back out there. Hopefully, we can have a successful summer.”