The period of exile is over, at least commercially speaking.
Banned ex-Australia captain Steve Smith made his first appearance to a broad audience since the fateful Cape Town Test in South Africa in March in a commercial for Australian telecom giant Vodafone.
The fallout of the ball-tampering controversy from Cape Town had seen Smith’s fortunes – as indeed the fortunes of David Warner, Cameron Bancroft and all of Australian cricket – nosedive, and the 29-year-old is now in the final quarter of a 12-month ban imposed by Cricket Australia.
Here’s the Vodafone Australia commercial, which intends to “spread awareness about mental health for young Australians”.
The advertisement begins with a snippet from Smith’s press conference upon his arrival in Australia in the wake of the ball-tampering saga, where he broke down while attempting to apologise for his actions.
“To fans of cricket, I’m absolutely devastated... I’ll do everything I can to make up for my mistake, and I hope I can be a force for change.”
The rest of the commercial showcases Smith describing the turmoil he has faced in the months ever since, while expressing his delight at just being back in the game at any level.
"“I was in a pretty dark space. It made me realise what other people go through, and what they need to get through those difficult times.It was just about being upfront and honest, and taking responsibility.It’s nice to be back at the club. I just love being in a contest.”" - Steve Smith, in a Vodafone Australia commercial
Smith, who averaged a staggering 61.37 in Tests at the time of being banned, is also barred from playing first-class cricket as well as the Big Bash League in Australia. For the last nine months, the middle-order batsman – still ranked second in Test cricket – has spent his time playing grade cricket, in addition to featuring in the Caribbean Premier League and the Canadian T20 League.
"“I’ve certainly had some difficult days, but it’s okay to be vulnerable.Everyone makes mistakes. It’s about the way you respond to it.I want to come back better than I was.”" - Steve Smith, in a Vodafone Australia commercial‘Tacky, Cringe, A Disgrace’: Twitter Erupts
The appearance hasn’t been received all too well by Twitterati – in Australia, and elsewhere.
That Steve Smith Vodafone ad is cringe, no no no. #bbl08 channel 7— Ray Cameron (@bombersfan63) December 19, 2018
Who is advising Steve Smith? That ad is a disgrace.— James Johnson (@notjunior) December 20, 2018
Imagine being paid money by a sponsor for playing GRADE CRICKET because you’re banned for cheating from all other formats. ?. What a hero. SO GUTSY. (Don’t think about all that T20 money he’s made).— Andrew Biggs (@biggsintweets) December 19, 2018
Several Vodafone customers even threatened to discontinue using their services.
It wasn’t a mistake, it was deliberate cheating. I object to you pretending that being sad about getting caught is the same as depression. I’m a long term Vodafone customer, deciding if I will continue to be one at the end of my contract.— Kent Parkstreet the b6th (@kentparkstreet) December 20, 2018
It's kind of like when Vodafone lied to me for years and told me the drop outs and failures to connect were because of my phone when really it was their network.— Billy Crazy (@BillyCrazy2) December 20, 2018
Pushed into a corner, Vodafone Australia issued its defense of the idea on the social media platform.
2/2 Vodafone believes in a fair go for all Australians and importantly, being open, honest and transparent. We are supporting Steve Smith in his mission to spread awareness about mental health for young Australians.— Vodafone Australia (@VodafoneAU) December 19, 2018
There’s still some time before Smith returns to the cricket community in totality, with his ban on until the end of March. How the sport welcomes him back remains to be seen.
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