Ashes heroics left ‘mental, physical scar’ on Smith
Steve Smith's revelation that he came down ill after the Ashes has laid bare the exhaustive cost of carrying Australian cricket on one's shoulders.
The game's most meticulous batsman is seeking a meeting of the minds with rugby league's most thorough professional Cooper Cronk in the wake of the Sydney Roosters' back-to-back premierships, where he was welcomed into the inner-sanctum.
But while the relief of retirement has arrived for ironman halfback Cronk, Australia's modern-day Bradman is already saddling up for another long summer of toil.
Speculation and debate over whether Smith will captain Australia again is likely to dominate the summer, with the backdrop being that Tim Paine - who will turn 35 in December - can't go on forever, despite the statesmanlike role he has played for Australian cricket.
At a press conference on Wednesday on the eve of NSW's Sheffield Shield opener against Queensland, Smith refused to be drawn on whether he has given any thought to assuming the captaincy reins again in the future, other than to admit he can't help himself in giving tactical advice to Paine on the field, to the point he fears he might need to scale it back.
But perhaps the most pertinent admission was Smith detailing the extreme mental and physical toll that his batting heroics alone took on him during the Ashes.
"It was probably a bit of everything. Mental, emotional, physical. The Ashes takes it out of you like no other," said Smith, who was dealing with the added scrutiny of his comeback to Test cricket.
"Obviously I spent a lot of time out on the field throughout the series. Towards the last Test match, it got to about day two and my mind was saying, keep going, but my body had basically shut down and wasn't letting me do anything.
"I was a little bit sick after that. I gave it my all. I was proud of my efforts over there and proud of all the boys' efforts as well.
"I've had a couple of weeks just to lay low and get back into the things."
Recently retired selector Greg Chappell said earlier this week that he felt Smith might be best left to concentrate on his crucial role as Australia's batting linchpin, rather than be burdened once more by captaincy.
Smith said life was more "chilled" without the 'c' next to his name, but can't help but give his thoughts and advice to the brains trust - sometimes, he admits, to excess.
"I help out wherever I can. I suggest lots of things - maybe too much, to Tim. I probably need to keep quiet a bit," said Smith.
"I just try and help out as much as I can. I just want to help the team win as much as possible, I don't want to sit back and not say something if I think it might help us. It's a fine line, I guess, and something I need to keep working on."
Smith was photographed joining in with his NRL side, the Roosters, following their NRL grand final triumph over Canberra - opening up on his relationship with mastermind coach, Trent Robinson.
Last year, Robinson had fellow Roosters fan David Warner come into address his players in the midst of the ball-tampering bans, and he also has had contact with Smith.
There are similarities between the way champion playmaker Cronk and the insatiable Smith go about their work, and the Australian batting star would love to swap notes.
"I'd like it. He's an impressive guy, and had an amazing career. It was a great way to finish for him, winning three straight grand finals," said Smith.
"I'd love to sit down and have a chat with him and pick his brain, that's for sure.
"I've had a few chats to (Robinson). He's a really impressive guy and everything I hear around the traps is how respected he is as a coach and the cultures he sets.
"I listened to Robbo's talk to the team (after the grand final) which was really good."