A talking point that often comes up regarding the state of cricket is the balance between bat and ball.
Steve Smith admits he had flashbacks returning to the Johannesburg hotel where his world came crashing down after confessing to ball-tampering.
But Smith says he’s excited to be back in South Africa for the first time since his career low point and believes people have largely moved on from the ugly saga.
Australia are set to face South Africa in three T20 internationals beginning on Friday at the Wanderers, followed by three ODIs.
The tourists have set up camp at the same Johannesburg hotel where Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft arrived in disgrace after it was revealed they had plotted to tamper with the ball in the previous Test in Cape Town.
The trio met with then-Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland at the hotel, where Smith was told he had been banned for 12 months.
“Probably just walking into the hotel, just initially I was like ‘last time I was here, it wasn’t pretty’,” Smith told reporters in Johannesburg.
“It wasn’t the best time in my life. But I’ve moved on from that, learned a lot over the last two years and I’m moving forward.
“It’s good to be back here playing and I’m looking forward to this series.”
Smith had to endure further misery, including being marched through Johannesburg Airport under police escort and breaking down in a press conference on arrival in Sydney.
The former captain fully expects a hostile reception from South African fans notorious for targeting opposition players, particularly when Australia return to the scene of the crime at Newlands for next Wednesday’s T20 series finale.
But Smith said he hadn’t had any awkward moments during the team’s stay in Johannesburg.
“I’ve been to a few of the restaurants and people have been lovely,” he said.
“Guys have come up and had some photos and things like that and been really nice. That’s been good.
“It’s been pretty normal to when I’ve been here previously, nothing really different.”
Smith added that he had “a few little conversations here and there” during the IPL and last year’s World Cup with several of the key South African players from the fiery 2018 series, and felt that there were no lingering bad feelings.
Smith and Warner were booed and jeered throughout England during the Ashes and World Cup, which coach Justin Langer suggested would be a “great dress rehearsal” for what they could expect in their return to South Africa.
But rather than being fuelled by the hostility, Smith – whose astounding performance in the Ashes paved the way for Australia to retain the urn – said it simply didn’t register.
“I think Justin said something the other day, we had the dress rehearsal in England where there was a fair bit going on. But I honestly don’t notice it,” he said.
“Particularly when I’m batting, I don’t really hear anything that’s going on. I block it all out.
“Maybe a little bit when I’m fielding but then again, it’s just words. It doesn’t affect me. If people want to say things then go for it.”