Melbourne: Self introspection and social work during the year-long ban for his involvement in the infamous ball-tampering scandal has helped him grow as a better person, says Australia batsman Steve Smith.
The 29-year-old Smith and David Warner returned to national duty earlier this month after they were banned for a year for their role in the ball-tampering scandal, which shook cricket world, in a Test match against South Africa last year. The ban period ended on 29 March 2019.
"Having a year to reflect and do some different things that I'd never done before (was beneficial). Doing stuff in the mental health space, doing stuff with Gus Worland (an Australian television and radio personality) -- that was incredibly eye-opening and satisfying in a way to know I was making a difference to other people," Smith was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
"I took a lot out of that. I do feel I've certainly grown as a person over the last year, that's for sure," said the prolific batsman.
Smith was involved in activities to help raise awareness of mental health during his suspension period.
Along with completing 100 hours of community service as required by his Cricket Australia sanction for his part in the ball-tampering plot, Smith also donated his fee from the first playing contract he secured in the aftermath of the controversy, according to Cricket Australia website.
The money he would have pocketed for his stint in the Global Canada T20 league helped fund the uniforms, registration costs and coaching fees for a group of young cricketers in Toronto and made contributions to the Lord's Taverners charity.
"Not too many players have a year out of the game. Having performed at a high level for four to five years, to have a year away has helped freshen me up and come back hungrier than ever and work on a few different things and get fitter," said the former captain.
"I've really enjoyed the way everyone has got around me and Dave (Warner), it's just like fitting back in like we never left in a way."
Smith underwent an elbow operation in January but a hundred in the World Cup warm-up match against England and three big fifties preceding that suggest that his recovery has not affected his batting much.
Smith though said he's not quite at full capacity in the field yet.
"It's coming along pretty well," he said of his elbow.
"I haven't been able to really test it yet throwing-wise. I'd say I'm probably at about 80 per cent throwing-wise. Hopefully it can progress a little bit further before the first game.
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Warner, who captained Sunrisers to their maiden title in 2016, was not picked for the final six games of the 2021 season in the UAE. He was already stripped of captaincy during the India leg of the IPL.
Sunrisers Hyderabad removed Warner from the captaincy in the first leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) this year and when the league resumed in the UAE he was left out of playing XI after ordinary outings in the first two matches.
Check out photos from Australia's five-wicket win over South Africa in their Super 12 match at the T20 World Cup 2021