Banned cricketer Steve Smith has said that there was nothing wrong with Australia’s cricket culture and added that it was showed in poor light after the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
Former Australia captain Smith is still serving a one-year ban from international and domestic cricket for his part in the incident that rocked the cricket world. Smith, his deputy David Warner and opening batsman Cameron Bancroft were suspended after the Australians tried to use sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball in the Cape Town Test against South Africa.
Australia’s cricketing leadership – which, according to an independent review, promoted a ‘win at all costs’ culture – was blamed after the incident and it led to some changes at the highest echelons of Australian cricket.
Smith, in an interview to Adam Gilchrist for Fox Cricket, said that he didn’t think country’s cricketing culture was bad.
“If you’re talking about cultures and stuff, you only have to look back a couple of months before South Africa and we won an Ashes series here in Australia 4-0 and people are saying the culture’s really good and everything’s good,” he said.
“So, you know, things can change really quickly. Obviously events that happened in Cape Town make people say that the culture was really bad. People will have their own opinions on that. Personally, I don’t think it was a bad culture.”
Smith said that the team was under pressure from the then Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland and high performance manager Pat Howard after their loss to South Africa in the Hobart Test of November 2016.
“It was our fifth straight lost in Test cricket I think after three Tests in Sri Lanka and I remember James Sutherland and Pat Howard coming into the rooms there and actually saying, ‘We don’t pay you to play, we pay you to win.’ So, for me, that was I think a little bit disappointing to say. We don’t go out there to try and lose games of cricket, we go out there to try and win and play the best way we can,” he said.
Smith also said he isn’t harbouring ambitions of leading the national side immediately after his return from suspension in April. “For me, it’s just about getting back and I’d love to play under Tim [Paine] in the Ashes and under Finchy [Aaron Finch] in the World Cup and, you know, I’d do anything to try and help them and help the Australian team,” he said.
Smith also thanked the people close to him for helping him get out of a “pretty dark space” following the ball-tampering incident.