Steve Smith has opened up about falling out of love with cricket while in exile, revealing at one stage he didn't know if he would ever play again.
Smith's impressive knock of 144 on day one of the Ashes opener at Edgbaston represented his most significant statement with the bat since the Cape Town cheating scandal.
The talented batsman remains keen to move on from the ball-tampering saga, noting it is "all in the past".
A self-confessed cricket nerd, Smith has previously admitted he struggled after being stripped of the captaincy and given a year-long ban by Cricket Australia
But after rescuing Australia with the bat while being booed and mocked by members of the crowd for breaking down in tears last year, Smith detailed one of his lowest points since Cape Town.
"There were times throughout the last 15 months where I didn't know if I was ever going to play cricket again," Smith said.
"I lost a bit of love for it at one point, particularly when I had my elbow operation.
"It was really bizarre that it was the day I got the brace off my elbow, I found a love for it again. I don't know what it was."
Smith underwent elbow surgery in January and returned via the Indian Premier League in March.
"It (removing the elbow brace) was like a trigger that just said 'right, I'm ready to go again'," the 30-year-old said.
"'I want to go out and play for Australia and make people proud and just do what I love doing.
"Fortunately that love has come back. I'm really grateful to be in this position now, playing for Australia again and doing what I love."
Smith, a self-confessed cricket nerd with few interests outside the sport, is renowned for being the first to arrive at training and last to leave.
That relentless pursuit of his main passion, coupled with Australia's predictable decline given the absence of the world's best batsman, was always going to make it a tough stint on the sidelines.
There were fears a desperate Smith, who worked overtime in the nets during the past fortnight even by his own obsessive standards, risked burnout before Australia's five-Test series against England started.
The right-hander's quirky quest for perfection continued on day one of the series, during which he regularly threw his head back in disgust at dot balls or mistimed strokes.
"Is he always that fidgety? It seemed like he was really fidgety today and getting a bit frustrated with himself," England paceman Stuart Broad said.
The only question remaining is whether Smith will regain the captaincy.
"Tim's done a magnificent job over the last 18 months or whatever it is," he said.
"I'm obviously an experienced player now.
"You want your experienced players to stand up when it's difficult and show the way."