Rajasthan Royals have taken a bold decision by releasing Steve Smith, so what lies ahead of them in the 2021 campaign after the Australian’s departure.
There were few surprises on January 20 when the Indian Premier League teams released the list of players that have been retained and released, but none was not bigger than Rajasthan Royals (RR) parting ways with Steve Smith. The Australian batsman has been captaining the side in the last two campaigns, so it was a big call from the team owners.
Released: Steve Smith, Ankit Rajpoot, Oshane Thomas, Akash Singh, Varun Aaron, Tom Curran, Anirudha Joshi, Shashank Singh
Retained: 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
It could have been tipped as a strategic move to get Smith back in auction for a lesser fee, but the team said goodbye to Smith on their social media handles. RR also released a statement saying that Sanju Samson will be leading the team from next season. Smith is unlikely to return to RR, so what does lie ahead for him and RR?
Rajasthan may look to get more dynamic replacement for Smith
The three international slots in the best starting XI of Rajasthan Royals is fixed. The English trio of Ben Stokes, Jos Butler, and Jofra Archer provides them the right balance. Butler keeps wicket, while Stokes is an all-rounder and Archer contributes with the ball. They will have to look for a batsman that can provide dynamic batting in the middle order along with being a capable anchor.
Dawid Malan could be the ideal replacement for Smith. The world number one T-20 batsman will be in demand during the auction on February 11, but RR has a significant purse (Rs 37.85 crores) to go all out for him. He has a strike rate of 150 at the international level and an average close to 54, so he can be the batsman RR can rely on to play long innings, while others bat around him. (Stats courtesy: Cricbuzz)
Along with Malan, RR needs able back up players for Stokes and Archer. Considering it is a big tournament, injuries could be a major issue. If they can get someone like Glenn Maxwell for a decent price, then it will be a big bonus. They have traded Robin Uthappa with Chennai Super Kings in a straight cash deal, so they might look for a solid backup middle order Indian batsman. Someone like Karun Nair would be a handy option for RR to have that depth in the Indian lineup. The priority in the auction will be replacing Smith with a more dynamic overseas batsman.
Sanju Samson showed during the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT) that he can be a sound captain and leader. His performances have been inconsistent over the years, so added responsibility may benefit him and RR. After a testing season last year, Yashasvi Jaiswal will be better adapted to the league to deliver good performances.
Smith will have suitors but he will excel in specific conditions
For Smith, the T-20 format has not been as productive as the other two formats of the game. He struggled for RR last season despite playing some good knocks at the start of the tournament. The Australian batsman also struggled against India during the T-20 series.
Despite recent poor form, Smith still could be a handy addition for an IPL franchise. He will be very well suited to a team where there are many explosive batsmen around him in the middle order. It will be interesting to see which team will be ready to take a gamble on him, but a team like CSK should not be ruled out from signing him as they look to rebuild the squad.
Bringing an end to the association with RR will benefit Smith and his former team. RR’s success will depend on how they make use of their purse, while Smith needed to leave for greener pastures to kick start his T-20 career.
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