Mental fatigue became a factor: Smith
Aussie captain and Allan Border Medallist says time away from game made him realise the importance of a break
Andrew Ramsey in Melbourne
13 February 2018, 07:46 AM AEST
Steve Smith has conceded that his current recuperative break from international cricket was sorely needed and that he was unaware of how mentally fatigued he had become until given the chance to step away from the game.
Smith, who was last night awarded the Allan Border Medal as Australia's best men's cricketer across all formats, was granted a rest in the wake of his team's 4-1 Gillette ODI Series defeat to England that followed their 4-0 Magellan Ashes triumph.
While confirming that he "hates resting" and wants to play every possible match for his country, he acknowledged that he was mentally exhausted in the aftermath of the Ashes campaign in which he was named player of the series for his batting heroics.
And which came at the end of a challenging 12 months that he dominated as a Test batsman, but during which he led his team on grueling Test tours to India and Bangladesh as well as his fellow players through an at-times confrontational pay dispute with their employers, Cricket Australia.
It was only when he was granted a sabbatical for the current Gillette T20 International tri-series with England and New Zealand, where his deputy (and Medal runner-up) David Warner took over the captaincy that the 28-year-old recognised the toll the previous year had taken.
"It's hard to admit it when you're playing because you don't want to tell yourself these kinds of things, but I was really tired at the back end of those one-dayers," Smith said last night.
"The way I was batting and where my mind was at a couple of weeks earlier, it was in a completely different place and a place that I didn't entirely enjoy to be perfectly honest.
"But these last couple of weeks have been really good, just being able to refresh.
"I actually want to pick up a bat now – I'm going to have a hit tomorrow night and I'm actually excited about getting back into it."
Perhaps surprisingly given Australia's famous opening Test win in India last February and their supremacy throughout the Ashes, and his own imperious form that saw him average a remarkable 81.56 in Test matches throughout the 12-month voting period, it was a couple of drawn results that brought him greatest satisfaction.
"The two Test matches that stand out most for me (over the past year) were Ranchi, where we were able to block out a draw for a day and keep ourselves in the series at one-all going into the final Test match," Smith said tonight.
"And then Melbourne (on a lifeless pitch against England in late December), the same thing.
"You always want to play to win but sometimes it's just not possible, and showing the fight and the determination to get through those moments and show resilience and adapt to different conditions, that's what we're all about.
"And I think we've made some really big strides in those areas and the team's in a good place at the moment."
For Ellyse Perry, winner of the Belinda Clark Award for player of the year across all formats, her highlight was not only the on-field success in the Ashes campaign against England.
Perry, who like Smith was celebrating her second triumph in Australian cricket's foremost individual honours, cited the growing profile the women's game enjoyed through the international fixtures and subsequent Rebel Women's Big Bash League as highlights of her stellar year.
"The success of the Ashes for us, both from a cricket perspective on the field retaining the Ashes and playing on some parts some really great cricket," Perry said when asked to nominate her favourite memories of the year past.
"And I think in general the way that series was received by the public, and also the media and the way it was broadcast was absolutely wonderful for the sport.
"I thought that gave us some really great momentum going into the BBL and that was also a great tournament, and I think Australia in a lot of senses is really leading the way in women's cricket."
Qantas tour of South Africa
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Jackson Bird, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match v SA Invitational XI, Sahara Park, Benoni, Feb 22-24
First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5
Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13
Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3