Steve Smith acknowledged that his return to South Africa, a place where the sandpaper saga unfolded under his leadership, has been normal and the reception from the crowd has been “lovely”. Justin Langer had suggested that Smith and Warner had a “dress rehearsal” in England of how it was going to be like in South Africa but Smith stressed he has already moved on from the scandal two years ago.
“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,” Smith said. “The people have been lovely. For me, it doesn’t bother me too much. Justin said something the other day about having a dress-rehearsal in England. I, honestly, don’t notice it particularly when I am batting. It’s just words. It doesn’t affect me. People want to say things, great, people don’t want to say anything, that’s great as well. It’s their opinion. People want to say things, go for it.
“I’ve got fond memories of playing here. The 2014 Test series here was amazing and winning the Champions League here in 2012. People have been lovely. Guys have come up for photos and it’s been nice. It’s been normal. Nothing has been different.”
While Smith has been prolific as a Test batsman, he still is trying to find the pace in T20 cricket. The former captain revealed he understands his game better and how he needs to bat in the limited-overs format. “There’s more pressure,” he pointed out. “In Test cricket you can take your time. The shorter the format, the more proactive you have to be. It’s something I’ve learnt – which gears to use at the right time. It’s about reading the situation better and playing according to what the game demands. I try not to overthink things.
“I’ve got a nice rhythm in T20 cricket at the moment. I’ve enjoyed a couple of games back home. I scored a couple of fifties against Sri Lanka. Played against Pakistan and then played Big Bash. I am in a nice place and feeling good.”
South Africa will come into the series having lost two close encounters against England. Despite winning the first game by one run, they lost the second by two runs and then by five wickets in the final T20I. Smith felt the form shown by the hosts will make the series a fiercely contested one. “South Africa played a few good games against England albeit not winning. Some of the players are coming back as well,” he said. “Cricket wise the wickets are same back home so you don’t have to adjust much. So yeah, this series is going to make for a good viewing.”