I know that at this very moment, you are a broken man, still, I am proud of you. It takes guts and humility to admit mistakes. It takes tremendous fortitude to utter the words “I was wrong, and I am sorry”. Accepting that there was an error in your judgement doesn’t make you weak, it makes you awesome!
It’s a mark of your character that you saw a bus headed Cameron Bancroft’s way and knowingly threw yourself in front of it. You were well aware of the fact that you weren’t in a position to save your young team member, nevertheless, you decided to share his pain and humiliation.
In my cricket-crazy country, your arch-foe Virat Kohli is the light of everyone’s life. He is the flag-bearer of Indian cricket’s hopes and dreams. But for me, you were the quintessential sporting hero.
You did not have your bat kissed by God. You spent every possible hour honing your acquired craft. From being a rookie leg-spinner, who could bat, to an ‘accidental’ hero to a modern-day master, the story of your metamorphosis was one for the books.
With your prodigious talent, enthusiasm, will to win, one-of-a-kind technique and terrific temperament, you were an epitome of greatness in the Test arena. You were a role model. A champion.
You were the one who single-handedly won matches and batted your opponents into submission. You had the fiercest and cleverest bowlers of the world racking their brain with the unanswerable question: how do you get Steven Peter Devereux Smith out?
The outstanding hand-eye coordination coupled with unusual bat angles, exceptional concentration and reflexes to die for, saw you rise to Bradmanesque stature.
From a double century at Lord’s marking the triumph of your will to a defiant, unconquered 141 at Gabba that legitimized your methods and results, your place in the pantheon of batsmen after Don Bradman was assured.
At the age of 28, you had the world at your feet. You moved mountains. You slew dragons. You walked on water.
But on that fateful day of March 24, 2018, in an extraordinary turn of events, you were reduced from being the totem of Australian cricket to a mere mortal. Everything you worked your whole life for was snatched away by a moment of madness.
The video of you being marched through Johannesburg airport like a drug mule, as bystanders booed and called you a cheat, sent shivers down my spine.
Then, on Thursday morning, as you battled in vain to keep your emotions in check while refusing to implicate others, taking full responsibility for the ball-tampering crisis at the mortifying press conference, I was left torn apart. I wanted to hug you and tell you that it will be alright.
Just three months ago, you had an aura of invincibility around you. There were celebrations with a jarring roar, the kissing of your helmet badge and the thumping of your chest.
Today, you’re fallen.
Someone once told me that every person has to go through the same amount of negative events in their life, just at different intervals. Some experience it all at once, others face it throughout their years, and so on. It seems as if you have had all of yours happen this week.
No one can ease the pain in your heart that you are struggling to carry on your own, but I recognize the depth of it. To say I am worried about you is an understatement. Seeing the object of your admiration in pain is one of the worst things anyone can go through in life.
Be kind to yourself. You cannot hide the self-blame I see in your eyes.
I am proud of you for being wise beyond your young years. It is not easy to be at the receiving end in the world that can be so cold at times. I hope you remain standing with an open heart and unwavering faith in your undeniable mental strength.
Always remember, you have the capacity for greatness!
Your path back is going to be long and rocky, and there will be a lot of dark times. But I wish you the quickest recovery ever.
And why do we fall, Smithy? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.
Your ardent fan.