Ahead of the three-match T20I series against the Proteas, Australia batsman Steve Smith, who is returning to South Africa for the first time after the 2018 ball-tampering scandal said that he is looking forward to the hostile reception thrown at him from Proteas fans.
Australia has not played a T20 international since November and this is the side's first tour back to South Africa since the infamous 'Sandpapergate' scandal. In 2018, Warner, Smith, and Cameron Bancroft were involved in ball-tampering in the Cape Town Test and as a result, the trio was suspended by Cricket Australia for one year.
“It’s nice to be back playing in South Africa,” Smith told reporters on Wednesday. “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," he added.
The right-handed batsman said that he has been playing for a year now and he is "really enjoying it and he is in a nice place." "They are hostile at the best of times here. It doesn't bother me too much. Like Justin (Langer) said we had the dress rehearsal in England where there was a fair bit going on but I honestly don't notice it, particularly when I am batting," Smith said.
"I don't really hear anything that's going on and I block it all out. Maybe a little bit when I am fielding. But then again it's just words, it doesn't affect me. I think I will be doing some outfielding so I'm looking forward to it. I will smile and laugh and play along and have fun," he added.
Since making his comeback in 2019, Smith has scored two centuries and a double-hundred in the Ashes, a hundred in his most recent ODI innings against India and two unbeaten fifties in his last three T20 innings.
"I have been to a few of the restaurants where people have been lovely. Guys have come up and had a few photographs so that's been good. It's been pretty normal to when I have been here previously," Smith said. Australia will next take on South Africa in three T20Is and as many ODIs. The first T20I will be played on February 21.
(With agency inputs)(Image credits: AP)