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12 Nov 2019, Edition - 1582, Tuesday

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Sports

Steve Smith opens up to media over ‘leadership failure’

The Guardian

Suspended superstar Steve Smith expects a hostile reception from English crowds in next year’s World Cup and Ashes.

Smith has spoken to reporters for the first time in Australia since repeatedly breaking down upon arrival at Sydney airport after the Cape Town cheating scandal.

Smith was far more composed at the SCG on Friday, revealing his struggles to get out of bed at various low points of a year-long ban that will expire in about three months.

The sacked captain addressed issues ranging from what he termed a failure of his leadership at Newlands to how it’s “too early to say” whether he will ever lead the national side again.

The widespread expectation is that Smith, banned from holding a leadership position until 2020, will be part of Australia’s World Cup and Ashes defence in 2019.

Smith noted he still had “a lot of work to do to earn back the trust and respect of the Australian public” but is ready, if selected, for whatever the Barmy Army will throw at him.

“I haven’t thought too much about it,” Smith told reporters.

“Hopefully I get another opportunity (to play for Australia).

“No doubt the English crowds will be incredibly hostile. I’m ready for that if it happens.

“One thing that I’ve always done pretty well when I’m playing is blocking out exterior noise and getting on with the job at hand.

“No doubt the Barmy Army are loud and you can’t block it out as such, but it’s just about staying in your own mind.”

Smith praised the leadership of Tim Paine and Aaron Finch, who have captained Australia in his absence.

“Tim Paine’s leadership has been exceptional. Since taking over as captain he’s obviously faced difficult circumstances to begin with,” he said.

“And he’s done a terrific job.

“It’s too early to say (whether Smith aspires to captain again). I just want to get back playing and try to contribute to the team as much as I can and just help out … Tim and Finchy as well.”

Smith, asked to recall his response to discovering a premeditated plan to cheat with sandpaper at Newlands in March, recalled what he termed a failure of his leadership.

“I don’t want to know about it,” Smith said.

Smith insisted his relationship with David Warner, the vice-captain who also copped a 12-month ban for his role in the ball-tampering saga, is fine.

“I walked past something and had the opportunity to stop it and I didn’t do it. That was my leadership failure.”

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