Australia batsman Steve Smith is itching to put behind memories from his previous tour of South Africa, after returning to the country for the first time since the ball-tampering episode of 2018.
The 30-year-old served a one-year ban for his involvement, during the Test series in March 2018. Close to two years later, he is back with the Australia unit, set to play a three-match T20I series in the country.
“It’s nice to be back playing in South Africa,” Smith told reporters, on Wednesday, 19 February. “The last time I was here, things didn’t end overly well, but I’ve also got really fond memories of playing here.
“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 and learned a lot."
Steve Smith believes T20 can be tougher as a batsman than Test cricket 👀 pic.twitter.com/n3XyQ1L5lz— ICC (@ICC) February 19, 2020
Johannesburg will host the opening T20I on 21 February, with the second and third games in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town respectively. It will be immediately followed by a three-match ODI series, with the final game in Potchefstroom on 7 March.
Smith returned to the T20I format in October 2019, after a three-year gap, marking his comeback with scores of 53*, 13 and 80*. And while he admits that the reception in South Africa has been great, and people have been ‘lovely’, he is aware that the spotlight will be on him as soon as he enters the Wanderers for the first game.
Faf du Plessis, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje have been called up to 🇿🇦's T20I squad to face Australia. pic.twitter.com/rZIyM90chB— ICC (@ICC) February 17, 2020
“Everywhere I have been, the people have been lovely. Guys have come up and taken some photos and been really nice,” he said. “It’s been normal, the same as compared to when I’ve been here previously. It’s a terrific place to tour, and I’m glad to be back.
“I think they’re hostile here at the best of times,” he added, speaking about the Wanderers crowd. “It doesn’t bother me too much. Justin (Langer) said the other day that we had the dress rehearsal in England (in 2019). 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.”
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