Smith adduces 'mental fatigue' for downward spiral

Steven Smith, who’s serving a 12-month ban in international cricket, has revealed the ‘contributing factors’ to his downfall and emphasized on the need to have a mental break to avoid making wrong decisions.

“I was making horrible decisions and I just felt horrible at the crease,” Smith said on Thursday (June 28) after a blazing 41-ball 61 in the opening game of the Global T20 Canada tournament. “I think it all comes down to the mental part of the game and I put so much into the Ashes that it took so much out of me. A bit of a break perhaps isn’t the worst thing. Hopefully, I’ll be able to come back and perform at a really high-level gain, but we’ll see what happens.”

In his return to competitive cricket, the 29-year-old didn’t take long to hit the ground running as he smashed eight fours and a six in his knock to help his side, Toronto Nationals, kick off on a winning note against Chris Gayle’s Vancouver Knights. Smith termed the batting crease as ‘haven’ and admitted to being nervous before the start of the game.

“I normally don’t get real nervous before I play but I’ll be real honest, I was a bit nervous today,” he said. You know, three months off and I haven’t hit that many balls back home, I’ve had a couple of nets but I haven’t had a hit on turf. A hit indoors yesterday and it felt pretty good and had a bit of luck today and I didn’t feel as good as I probably ever had, but it’s nice to score some runs when you’re not feeling good. Hopefully some positive signs,” he added.

Australia suffered their first-ever whitewash against England in ODIs recently, a fact that’s tough to stomach for many Australian fans, none bigger than the former skipper who described the experience as ‘down’ and ‘hurting’.

“I’ve been up and down with my emotions if I’m being honest. I’ve had times, particularly watching the boys play in England, and not play as well as they could have and England play extremely well, it was hurting me that I couldn’t go out and help them, help them win games. And when they hopped on the plane to go over there I had some emotions that were a bit down. It’s been tough,” Smith said.

While Smith decoded the factors behind the stress he had gone through, the World number one Test batsman also threw light on having adequate breaks to stay mentally fit and avoid ‘horrible decisions.’

“I think I needed a break if that makes sense. It’s obviously come under some ordinary circumstances but I was really mentally fatigued after the Ashes. I put so much work into the Ashes, and I think back to the one-day games after the Ashes and I don’t think I’ve ever hit the ball that bad in my life.”

Smith also noted cricket as a part of his ‘rehab’ and is enthused to win the tournament for his side. “I’m not going to lie, it’s been a difficult time in my life there’s no doubt about that. But I’ve accepted my punishment, accepted what I’ve gone through and I’m moving forward. Part of my rehab is playing cricket as well. That’s what I love doing and I want to help Toronto Nationals win this tournament, and most importantly have a good time. That’s what Darren Sammy’s been relaying to us, let’s go out and enjoy it and have fun and play some good solid cricket,” he said.

The next few months could also see Smith getting married to his long-time girlfriend Dani Willis, a proposal he is hoping to translate whilst dedicating most part of his time to his home cricket club Sutherland in Sydney’s grade competition.

“I know I’m going to go back and I want to try to make a difference at Sutherland, Shane Watson’s going to be playing there so it’ll be great to reunite with him. I’m getting married back home as well, so I do have a lot to look forward to, but we’ll see. If I’m playing in other tournaments there’s every chance it’ll be later on, probably next year,” he mentioned.

Smith also thanked his friends and family for offering constant support during tough times and has promised to come back strong.

“I know all the people back home would be really proud of me playing here for the reasons I’m here as well. So it’s nice to be out in the middle. The last couple of months having some time off, I’ve been fortunate to do some really good work with Gotcha For Life and Gus Worland, talking about the mental health space and manning up and being vulnerable. Sometimes it’s okay to not be okay and things like that.”

“It’s been quite therapeutic for myself, but also I think a lot of the kids at the schools that I’ve gone to, I know we’ve made a big difference so far and that’s made me feel good in a way, and I’m going to do a lot more of that work when I get back home. I’ve been fortunate I’ve had the close people to me to get through what was a pretty difficult time in my life.”

When asked about his future commitments in other T20 leagues, Smith said: “People have asked me if I’m going to play a lot of tournaments around the world while I’m suspended from international cricket and I’m going to play this one and go from there.”

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