Australia's former captain Steven Smith has become the first member of the trio of players suspended over the Newlands ball-tampering scandal to leverage his disgrace and redemption narrative for commercial reasons, appearing in an advertisement aired during Wednesday night's Big Bash League opener in Brisbane.
Featuring in a campaign for the telecommunications company Vodafone, a sponsor of the Adelaide Strikers who defeated the Brisbane Heat in the opening game, Smith is seen intercut with footage from his tearful Sydney press conference upon his return home from South Africa, where he was stripped of the captaincy and banned from playing for a year by Cricket Australia.
The commercial also stages a re-enactment of school visits Smith undertook during the year as part of his CA-imposed community service, while he is heard in voiceover talking about how low things got for him. "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," Smith is heard saying.
"It was just about being upfront and honest and taking responsibility. It's nice to be back at the [Sunderland] club, I just love being in a contest. It's just you versus the bowler.
"I've certainly had some difficult days. But it's OK to be vulnerable. Everyone makes mistakes; it's about the way you respond to it that's really important. I want to come back better than I was."
ESPNcricinfo understands that Smith was not paid by Vodafone for the appearance, but it is an exercise in testing his connection with the public and potential customers of commercial entities who would wish to use him as a selling point in the future. Smith and Warner are banned until the end of March 2019, while Bancroft's suspension concludes in late December - he is likely to return to the field for the Perth Scorchers in their BBL fixture against Hobart Hurricanes in Launceston on December 30.
Smith, Warner, Bancroft and CA all paid heavy financial and commercial penalties for the Newlands scandal and the players' subsequent bans. Magellan cancelled its three-year contract with CA as a naming rights sponsor to the home Tests, while Asics (Warner and Bancroft), LG Australia, Toyota (Warner), and Commonwealth Bank and Sanitarium (Smith) all cancelled personal sponsorship deals.
At the same time, Smith and Warner had their IPL contracts cancelled, while Bancroft was also denied a previously arranged stint in English county cricket.
Intriguingly, Smith's agreement with Vodafone may have been more complicated had he still been under contract to CA. Following this year's A$1.18 billion broadcast deal with Foxtel and Seven, the former company had asked to be defined as a telecommunications provider, meaning they would prefer that the governing body not enter into another sponsorship in that area of the market. Three, Vodafone and Optus have all been CA partners in the past.