After enduring some of the darkest days of his lifetime, suspended Australian batsman Steve Smith has finally opened up about his struggles following the infamous ball-tampering saga that forever stained the fabric of Australian cricket and it’s rich history. From being touted as one of the greatest batsmen of his generation to being called ‘cheat’ – Smith faced all but yet never spoke in public after his emotional press conference in Sydney in March. Presently, serving a 12-month ban slapped by Cricket Australia, Smith has finally broken the silence on Friday about the ‘darkest days’ of his carrer since the Cape Town Test against South Africa.

The 29-year-old said he’s in better state of mind and in good spirits due to the strong support of close friends and family. “I’m going okay. I’ve had tough days, as I’ve said. I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve been really fortunate to have a close group around me that helped me get through those difficult times. There have been some dark days where I haven’t wanted to get out of bed and things like that,” Smith said at the SCG on Friday.

“But, you know, I’ve had a close group of people around me that have helped me know that it’s OK, you know? Like, I’ve made a mistake and it was a big mistake, and from now on I’m trying to move on from that and improve as a person.”

The former Aussie skipper added that he is looking forward to playing the World Cup and the Ashes next year (in UK) in front some hostile crowd. He also praised the leadership of his successor and Test skipper Tim Paine.

Smith also added that it’s been tough watching his teammates and country struggle knowing he cannot offer any help to them due to the 12-month ban. In the past, the Sydney-born batsman has quite often produced match-winning performances for Australia.

But Smith praised Australia for their 146-run win at Perth Stadium and the captaincy of Paine, who was made interim captain in the wakes of the Newlands episode before being handed the top job on a full-time basis.

“It’s been tough (watching) at times, particularly when the boys haven’t played their best in a couple of games,” he said.

“It’s been hard watching and knowing that I can’t go out and help them. But I was really proud of the way the boys played last week in Perth.”

On Tim Paine’s captaincy, he said: “I thought they were magnificent and I think Tim Paine’s leadership has been exceptional since taking over as captain. He’s obviously been faced with difficult circumstances to begin with but he’s done a terrific job.”

Smith, former Australia vice-captain David Warner, and opener Cameron Bancroft were all handed bans for their involvement in ball-tampering scandal during the Cape Town Test. While serving his ban, Smith has played in T20 competitions in Canada and the Caribbean islands. He also featured for Sutherland in NSW Premier (club) Cricket and has batted in the nets against Australia’s Test pace trio Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.