Steve Smith knows people will question his vice-captaincy of Australia’s Test team but insists he is a better leader than when he last held a position of power.
Some 1344 days after the horrors of Cape Town, Smith and Cricket Australia finally put the fallout from the ball-tampering scandal behind them on Friday.
As vice-captain, Smith will be handed more responsibilities than the deputies that have come before him.
He will take charge when Cummins is out on his feet as a pace bowler, and be asked to set fields and be a responsible voice on the field when the captain has ball in hand.
But his ascension back into the second biggest job in men’s cricket did come with controversy, with Shane Warne among those to question his return.
In a column for News Corp, Warne claimed Smith’s appointment would open up CA for criticism and left him questioning what the organisation stood for.
Warne was also critical that Smith was able to return to the vice-captaincy after a two-year leadership ban, while David Warner’s exile from such roles is a lifetime one.
Such is the spotlight put on Smith’s return, that even the first question put to him on Friday centred around whether his appointment was forgiveness for sandpaper-gate.
“There will be some negativity from some people about it. I understand that and I get that,” Smith admitted.
“But for me I know that I’ve grown a great deal over the last three or four years.
“I’m a more rounded individual and in turn I think it’s turned me into a better leader.
“I’ve been in a position the last few years playing as a leader and now the opportunity obviously to be standing here next to Patrick as a formal leader or a titled leader, I’m truly honoured.”
In Smith, Australia’s selectors can at least be confident the leadership won’t burden his batting.
His initial ascension to the vice-captaincy in 2014 coincided with his rise to the world’s best batsman, while his average of 70.36 as captain is bettered only by Don Bradman in the game’s history.
Friday’s decision also leaves Smith just one minor injury away from that top role again.
Cricket Australia confirmed in their appointment that Smith would be the man to take over if Cummins missed a match, rather than the role leapfrogging him to the likes of Marnus Labuschagne.
“From my point of view fingers crossed Patrick is available for every game,” Smith said.
“If the case is that he isn’t, I’ll step in and do the best job that I can for the team in his absence and ensure we’re still trying to push the team forward and keep growing as a team.
“Hopefully we can have some success along the way with that.”
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