Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Rajasthan Royals are pondering to release their skipper and talismanic run-scorer, Steve Smith, ahead of IPL 2021 auction. They will take the final call shortly before submitting the final list of retained players, the deadline for which is January 20, Brijesh Patel confirmed.
Meanwhile, the discussion has heated up after Smith’s off-form with the bat in IPL 2020 in the UAE. Steve Smith played all the 14 league matches, scoring 311 runs at a strike rate of 131, including three half-centuries. Rajasthan finished last in the eight-team tournament, and Smith’s impact as a leader and a batsman came under the scanner after IPL 2020.
Steve Smith to be released ahead of IPL 2021 auction
Ahead of the 2018 IPL, Smith was the only player retained by the Royals for INR 12.5 crore (about USD 1.953 million then). In 2018 the Royals started afresh returning from a two-year suspension and appointed Smith as the captain. However, Steve Smith stepped down from the position in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa ahead of the IPL.
But in 2019, after a faltering start to the IPL campaign, the franchise handed the captaincy back to Smith saying it was looking for a “fresh approach” while sacking Ajinkya Rahane, who had led the franchise to the playoffs in 2018.
However, after blowing hot and cold in the UAE, Rajasthan Royals are planning to shrug him off, a report in ESPNCricinfo suggests. The Royals would need to appoint a new captain in case Smith is released. One clear frontrunner within the existing squad is Indian batsman-wicketkeeper Sanju Samson, one of the impact players for the franchise in IPL 2020. On Monday, Samson led Kerala in their first match of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
Meanwhile, the franchise is likely to retain the English cricketers – Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, and Jofra Archer following their impact in the squad. However, the Rajasthan Royals are not keen to give them the leadership duties citing they are not available for the whole series due to international commitments.
Rajasthan, who won the inaugural edition of IPL in 2008, is yet to win the tournament since then and will hope to end their poor run in the next season.