In an interview with Adam Gilchrist for Fox Cricket, Smith said he didn't believe the culture was as bad as people made it out to be. However, when asked by Gilchrist to identify a specific moment when the side's culture began to go off track, Smith picked a scene from the dressing room following a Test loss to South Africa at home.
"I think back to Hobart when we lost there against South Africa (November 2016) and it was our fifth straight lost in Test cricket I think after three Tests in Sri Lanka and I remember James Sutherland (former CA CEO) and Pat Howard (former high performance manager) coming into the rooms there and actually saying, "We don't pay you to play, we pay you to win". So, for me, that was I think a little bit disappointing to say. We don't go out there to try and lose games of cricket, we go out there to try and win and play the best way we can.
"If you're talking about cultures and stuff, you only have to look back a couple of months before South Africa and we won an Ashes series here in Australia 4-0 and people are saying the culture's really good and everything's good. So, you know, things can change really quickly. Obviously events that happened in Cape Town make people say that the culture was really bad. People will have their own opinions on that. Personally, I don't think it was a bad culture."
Smith, however, admitted it was his 'failure of leadership' which allowed the ball-tampering incident to happen. It resulted in long suspensions for himself, along with David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.
"It was a mistake on my behalf as a leader to allow something like that to happen out in the middle," he conceded. "I saw the potential for something to happen out in the middle. I didn't particularly know that it was going to happen, but at that point I sorta said "I don't want to know about it". That was my failure of leadership. That's where I should have said "What are you guys doing? Stop it. This isn't on.
"So that's my failure of leadership and I've owned it and taken responsibility for what happened, and that's I guess one of the things I talk about in making decisions. That's a decision where I could have said "No" and stopped a negative outcome that happened out in the middle and that was something, I guess, that I've learned over this nine months is to sum up every single decision you make. Take a minute or take a few seconds to think, "If this goes pear-shaped, how it gonna look?". That's something that I've really learned over this nine months."
Smith revealed he struggled mentally since his suspension, but help from family and friends helped keep him afloat.
"It's been a tough nine months. I've had ups and downs throughout the nine months. Initially, I guess the first week or so after everything sort of went down in South Africa, that was really tough. I was in a pretty dark space. I was pretty much curled up in a ball and in tears for a lot of it," he said.
"I was struggling mentally, and not doing real well. But I was fortunate that I had a close group of people that I could speak to. My now wife, my old man, my good mate Luke who's here with me today and my manager. I've pretty much had these guys on a loop on the phone sort of assuring me everything was OK. At the time it didn't feel OK but, sort of helped me get through or weather the storm, I guess, initially and get through that difficult moment at the start.
"From there I guess the next eight-and-a-half months it's been OK. I've had moments where I've been down, there's moments where I've been up, and been, yeah, a bit up and down. But I'm getting through it and I'm fortunate to have a close group of people that have helped me get through it which I'm really grateful for."
Smith, along with Warner, is expected to return to action in the ODI series against Pakistan in April next year. He said he wasn't thinking about captaining the side in the future, and is only hoping to play the Ashes under Tim Paine and the World Cup under Aaron Finch.
First Published: December 26, 2018, 5:04 PM IST