Sydney, December 21: Steve Smith discussed his "leadership failure" following the ball-tampering scandal as the banished Australia captain eyes a return to the national team.
Smith, along with then vice-captain David Warner, were handed 12-month bans from international and state cricket for their roles in the ball-tampering controversy against South Africa at Newlands in March.
Star Australian batsman Smith was deemed to have had knowledge of a plan to alter the condition of the ball, which Warner is alleged to have developed and instructed Cameron Bancroft – who was banned for nine months – to carry out with sandpaper, and failing to prevent its implementation.
Smith fronted the media for the first time since breaking down in tears upon his arrival after the Cape Town fiasco more than eight months ago, and the 29-year-old opened up about his exile from the international and state arena.
"I've had some tough days," Smith – who dismissed claims of a rift with Warner – told reporters in Sydney on Friday. "But they're sort of few and far between now. I still have moments and have my ups and downs. But, yeah, I'm going OK and heading in the right direction.
"I'm moving forward day to day, and doing what I need to do to prepare to hopefully get another opportunity to play for Australia. I've still got a lot of work to do to earn back the trust and respect of the Australian public. And I'll continue to do that."
Steve Smith addressing the media and says it's been tough at times watching the Australian team, but was proud of the side after the win in Perth pic.twitter.com/xCJ3EKzeam— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) December 21, 2018
Asked whether he wants to captain Australia again – with the Aussies currently being led by Tim Paine who oversaw a series-levelling victory over India in Perth – Smith added: "At the moment I am happy where I'm at.
"The next three months, it's just about preparing as well as I can to hopefully be a part of the World Cup and the Ashes. And, you know, as I said before, I think Tim Paine has done an exceptional job. And Aaron Finch taking over the one-day side, he's had a tough start to that with the performances of the team, I guess. But, you know, if I get back and play under them, I'll do everything I can to help them out and help Australia have success.
"I just want to get back playing and try and contribute to the team as much as I can. And just help out anyone that's around. Tim and Finchy as well. So, we'll see what the future holds. But at the moment I'm just preparing to play. And I'm excited by that prospect."
On the scenes that unfolded in South Africa, where Bancroft was caught on camera using yellow tape on day three of the third Test against the Proteas, Smith said: "For me I walked past something and had the opportunity to stop it and I didn't do it and that was my leadership failure.
"There was the potential for something to happen and it went out onto the field and I had the opportunity to stop it at that point, rather than say I don't want to know anything about it.
"That was my failure of leadership and I have taken responsibility for that. As far as I'm concerned this was the first it happened for Australia. .
"I know that in any game that you play, you want the ball to try and move at some point in the game. But obviously you want to do it in a legal way and allow it to play its course that way, I guess."