Cricket break might be what Smith needs
FOR two days, Cricket Australia officials were furious at Steve Smith. Now they are worried about him.
The concern is that Smith, who is believed to have been a tearful wreck since the ball-tampering scandal broke, has the type of personality that could completely unravel in his new life in exile from the only life he has ever known.
People who were furious with him 48 hours ago are now contemplating behind-the-scenes measures to ensure he gets through the ban that awaits him.
That sounds soft, and I can already hear voices from the 1970s green-and-gold brigade urging him to "take a cement pill and harden up''.
But the modern world is a better place for such concerns.
Trevor Chappell's underarm trauma may not have been a life sentence had he been supported in such a way.
Where David Warner is a rough-and-tumble character hardened by an abrasive life, Smith has essentially been a behavioural cleanskin and his friction-free life has made the current turbulence all the harder to handle.
Smith has grown used to being the hero on horseback, not the man in black.
One of the reasons he had such a clear focus on his batting was that the rest of his life was so free of distractions and anguish - until the grand piano dropped from the skies at Cape Town.
For this reason, Australia is walking an emotional tightrope as they attempt to both send him into exile yet make sure he is not too ostracised.
Perversely, a decent break from cricket might just be what he needs. He looked exhausted even before the ball tampering incident.
As a leader who sinned, Smith has no recourse against a ban set to be delivered with the firmness an irate nation demands. He deserves to feel the pain of exile.
But then another mission starts to ensure the grief that is crippling him at the moment does not destroy him.
Smith will be back. He will surely score Test runs again. There will be rehabilitation.
But beneath this likely journey there is a chastening fact - he can never truly be what he was.
He will never captain his country again in any form of the game.
He can rise again as an exceptional Test batsman, but never as a leader.
He could score another 20 Test centuries, yet the most famous event of his career will be the day he sanctioned a grubby little plan to tamper with a ball.
Smith will not have to look far to know that while he may never live down the affair, life will go on.
Mark Waugh's reputation looked trashed for good when he took money from a bookie in the 1990s, yet he is now a hall of fame member and national selector.
People forgive, though it must be said, they will never forget.