BIRMINGHAM: After single-handedly dragging Australia out of a hole by scoring a magnificent hundred on the opening day of the first Ashes Test, Steve Smith revealed that there were times during his one-year ban when he considered walking away from the game completely.
After Australia were reduced to 122/8 before Tea with Smith at the crease waging a lone battle on Thursday, the former captain, who returned to action recently after serving a one year ban due to his involvement in the ball tampering scandal in South Africa, struck 144 off 219 balls to help his team post 284 in their first innings.
"There were times throughout the last 15 months where I didn't know if I was ever going to play cricket again," ESPNcricinfo quoted Smith as saying after the day's play.
"I lost a bit of love for it at one point, particularly when I had my elbow operation, and it was really bizarre, it was the day when I got my brace off my elbow I found my love for it again. I don't know what it was, it was like a trigger to go again, I want to play, I want to go out and play for Australia and I guess make people proud and just do what I love doing.
When Smith reached his 24th Test century at Edgbaston, emotions spilled over which were visible on the faces of his teammates in the dressing room balcony. In the stands, there were Australian fans and his family who gave him a standing ovation while the local supporters' boos and taunts fell on deaf ears.
"I've never sort of had those feelings ever before where I didn't have a great love for the game and it was there for a little while. Fortunately, that love's come back and I'm really grateful to be in this position now, playing for Australia again and doing what I love," said Smith.
Smith first shared an 88-run ninth-wicket stand with Peter Siddle who scored 44 off 85 balls and then stitched together a 75-run partnership for the last wicket with Nathan Lyon (12 not out) to take the Aussies to a fighting first innings score.
He also rated the innings as one of the best hundreds in his career.
"I think it has got to be one of my best hundreds, definitely, first Ashes Test match, the ball was doing a fair bit out in the morning so I had to work really hard," said the former captain.
For England, Stuart Broad grabbed 5/86 while Chris Woakes returned figures of 3/58 in the absence of pace spearhead James Anderson who got injured after bowling just four overs.
At Stumps on Day One, England were 10/0 and were still 274 runs behind.