Placed on thee second-last position after playing eight games in the ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League, Rajasthan Royals on Saturday declared that Steve Smith will lead the team for the rest of their campaign.
The Australian, who recently made a comeback to top-flight cricket after serving a one-year ban, replaces Ajinkya Rahane as skipper of the men in pink.
“Ajinkya is and will always be a true Royal,” said Zubin Bharucha, Head of Cricket for Rajasthan Royals, in an official statement. “He led the team to the play offs in 2018 in a very challenging scenario and that will go down as one of the great comebacks of the IPL. He remains a key part of our side and leadership team and will extend support wherever required to Steve.
“Steve is one of the most innovative and successful captains in the world, in all formats of the game. We are confident he can lead the Royals to success.” added Bharucha.
Rajasthan Royals, the winners of the inaugural edition of the T20 tournament, have struggled for form right through this season. They have collected just four points so far, with two wins and six losses.
Their slump has coincided with senior batsman Rahane being unable to get among the runs. In eight matches, the right-hander has managed just 201 runs at an average of 25.12 and a poor strike-rate of 133.11.
Rahane’s 21-ball 26 in the middle order was largely responsible for RR’s 12-run loss to Kings XI Punjab in their previous game. With Rajasthan facing the in-form Mumbai Indians on Saturday, it remains to be seen if the 30-year-old will be dropped from the playing XI, too.
Smith’s appointment comes as a bit of a surprise, though. The 29-year-old has himself not been in the greatest touch with the bat this season. He has scored 186 runs in seven matches at a dismal strike-rate of 107.51. In fact, in Rajasthan’s last game, Smith was even dropped from the playing XI and was replaced by compatriot Ashton Turner.
In the wake of the ball-tampering scandal involving Australia last year, Smith, apart from being banned from the game for a year, is not eligible to take over as the captain of the Australian team till March 2020. Smith, along with Sunrisers Hyderabad opener David Warner, did not feature in the previous edition of the IPL following the scandal.
Another factor that makes Smith’s appointment as captain of Rajasthan Royals a little surprising is the fact that he will depart from the IPL at the end of this month to join the Australian team in a preparatory camp for the upcoming World Cup.