Modern-day Maximus Steve Smith bears his neck to the baying cricket crowd

Alex Broun 22:38 28/03/2018
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Steve Smith is surrounded by security at Johannesburg airport

As part-time Australian Russell Crowe famously declaimed during his Academy Award winning performance in Gladiator: “Are you not entertained?”

Crowe’s character Maximus had just fought a bloody battle in a second division bear pit on the outskirts of the Empire.

After putting six or seven opponents to the sword, the last in particularly brutal fashion, Maximus turns on the baying crowd.

“Are you not entertained?” he bellows, throwing his blood soaked sword to the dirt and spitting on it. “Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?”

To his great surprise the crowd start chanting his name, as Oliver Reed portraying the wily gladiator promoter does his best Darren Lehmann, watching on from the stands.

Ex-Australian Test captain Steve Smith knows right about now exactly how Maximus felt.

The 28-year-old batter has put more than a few attacks to the sword in modern colosseums around the globe but over the last week he has had to endure the very unpleasant sensation of the usually adoring crowd baying for his blood.

The hand that usually clutches the Australian coat of arms with such passion after every ton – they would now be happy to see him use it to reach into his chest and pull out his still beating heart.

Russel Crowe as Maximus: "Are you not entertained?"

Russel Crowe as Maximus: “Are you not entertained?”

Now as Smith’s excessive one year ban from cricket takes effect and he is rushed secretly out of Johannesburg airport flanked by security as if he is some kind of antipodean Hannibal Lecter, Smith too must want to throw down his bat and scream at the baying crowd: “Are you not entertained?”

“Have you not been given what you want? Do my wounds not make you smile?”

And make no bones about it, Smith is wounded.

His pocket has been severely hit after he was suspended from domestic and international cricket for 12 months with Cricket Australia reducing him to the role of the world’s No1 club cricketer.

He will lose an estimated AUS$5million over the next year with his lucrative CA contract greatly reduced minus Test, ODI and T20 match fees, his AUS$2.4m IPL contract cancelled as well as a raft of endorsements voided with Sanitarium the first to disown him.

But the money won’t be what hurts most.

Smith loves the baggy green and it was interesting in the confessional media conference that he wore his prized Australian Test cap, hoping the aura perhaps would protect him like Maximus’ armour.

Playing Test cricket for his country, representing his nation, is not only an honour for Smith but a constant joy.

He delights in every boundary, every run, every century, every landmark and of course in the ringing applause from his fans.

There is no applause now, just a bitter silence like the one that greeted Maximus after his butchery.

In the movie of course that didn’t last long. Soon the short-memory crowd embraced their new hero, the last man standing.

But that was different. Maximus played by the rules while Smith did not.

So what happens now to Steven Peter Devereux Smith?

He will be flown back to Australia, no doubt in a secluded corner of business class. Not even Cricket Australia would throw him to the lions with an aisle seat in economy.

He’ll be rushed out of a private exit in Sydney to alternative accommodation as his apartment in Coogee will be viewed as far too public for the immediate future.

His first point of business is to decide whether he will accept the one-year ban “offered” by Cricket Australia.

If he decides not to accept the ban it will kick off a three ring circus of a sporting tribunal where the belligerent cricketer’s union, the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA), will go head-to-head with CA for the soul of the former Australian captain.

Chances are Smith, and Cameron Bancroft, will accept their bans and sit in the naughty chairs until they are welcomed back in mid-2019 with open arms if they are still scoring runs.

Don’t be so sure about David Warner.

The wording of the Cricket Australia media release made it crystal clear that Warner was the instigator of the plan, Bancroft his pliant implementer and that Smith was only at fault for knowing and doing nothing and then trying to cover up the act afterwards.

To mix our Shakespearean metaphors Warner was the Iago pouring his poison in to the ear of Smith’s Hamlet.

And it is Warner who has received CA’s full fury.

If the whispers from inside the team are to be believed Warner’s days playing for Australia are over, opening the way for a Warner-CA split similar to what happened with Kevin Pietersen and the ECB.

But Smith indeed may still wear the Baggy Green many more times, as did Shane Warne after he was suspended for 12 months for using a diuretic.

Smith, like Maximus, may still walk out of the arena intact with the so-fickle crowd once more chanting his name.

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