Rajasthan Royals on Wednesday named Sanju Samson as their captain for the upcoming 2021 season of the Indian Premier League, releasing former captain Steve Smith from the squad.

The franchise announced that they had retained 17 players and released eight, the biggest name being the Australian batsmen.

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The foreign list of retained players includes England stars Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, and Jofra Archer. All three players have performed well for the Royals in the last tournament in UAE despite not making the playoffs. In addition to the English trio, David Miller and Andrew Tye have been retained too.

The retained Indian players include a strong core of young talent such as Riyan Parag, Shreyas Gopal, Rahul Tewatia, Mahipal Lomror, Kartik Tyagi and Yashasvi Jaiswal along with seniors like jaydev Unadkat and Robin Uthappa.

New captain Samson said he was excited about the leadership challenge.

“It’s an absolute honour to have been announced as the captain of Rajasthan Royals. It’s a team that is so close to my heart, which I’ve been lucky enough to play for over the years, and I’m excited about the challenge that lies ahead of me as the leader of the team.

The Royals have had some wonderful captains over the years and I’m so grateful for all the time I’ve spent working with and learning from great leaders like Rahul Dravid, Shane Watson, Ajinkya Rahane and Steve Smith!! I now cannot wait to get started and look forward to the season ahead,” he was quoted as saying in a release by the team.

Speaking on the captaincy change, team owner Manoj Badale said: “The Rajasthan Royals captaincy is a post for which we are lucky to have had so many greats of the game – Warne, Dravid, Watson, Rahane, and most recently Steve Smith. Steve has been a great player and great leader for the Royals, and we want to thank him for his contribution to the franchise.”

“As the IPL has grown, the captaincy has become a year-round task, and as such strong local Indian leadership has become increasingly important. Sanju made his debut as a Royal, and it has been a joy to watch his development over the last 8 years. He is the ideal person to lead the Royals into the 2021 season.”

“We’re happy to retain the core of our squad ahead of IPL 2021. We’ve got a talented group that underperformed overall last season and will be wanting to correct that. It is a well-balanced squad and we are excited for the season ahead,” Badale added.

Retained players:

Sanju Samson

Ben Stokes

Jofra Archer

Jos Buttler

Riyan Parag

Shreyas Gopal

Rahul Tewatia

Mahipal Lomror

Kartik Tyagi

Andrew Tye

Jaydev Unadkat

Mayank Markande

Yashasvi Jaiswal

Anuj Rawat

David Miller

Manan Vohra

Robin Uthappa

Released Players:

Steve Smith

Ankit Rajpoot

Oshane Thomas

Akash Singh

Varun Aaron

Tom Curran

Anirudha Joshi

Shashank Singh