Rajasthan Royals (RR) is likely to release their captain and head batsman Steven Smith in IPL 2021 auction. The management will take a final call shortly, before submitting their list of retained players, the deadline for which is January 20 given by the IPL to franchises.
The survey of the 2020 season of IPL directed by the management featured Smith’s shortcomings as a player. Smith’s mediocre structure in the season, where the Royals completed nearly at the bottom of the points table, as well as his feeble effect as a leader are the reasons why the franchise is considering his release from the team.
During the 13th edition of the tournament, Smith played all the 14 matches, scoring 311 runs at a strike rate of 131, which included three half-centuries.
Clearly, the management focused on the consistent performance of Royals in the playoffs. Winning the very first IPL session in 2008, then making position in playoffs in 2013, 2015, and 2018 but ending in the bottom rankers in the last season is bothersome for the management.
Smith’s performance was a matter of discussion throughout IPL 2020. He changed his batting position several times, first as an opener, then in the middle order, but nothing worked. It has clearly jeopardized his chances of staying with the team for IPL 2021. He was the only player who was retained by the RR management. RR retained him for INR 12.5 crore (about USD 1.953 million then) in 2018. Smith was appointed as the captain in 2018 IPL after RR’s return from two years suspension. However, he did not take the role at that time.
In 2019, after a wavering beginning to the IPL, the RR management gave the captaincy back to Smith saying it was searching for a “fresh approach” while terminating Ajinkya Rahane, who led the team to the playoffs in 2018.
The Royals would need to appoint a new captain in case Smith is released. Sanju Samson, an Indian wicketkeeper-batsman, was one of the most impactful players of the franchise in 2020 and is being considered as a potential replacement for Smith in case the latter is bid farewell.
Samson was bought by the Royals in the 2018 auction for INR 8 crore (about USD 1.25 million then). He scored the highest runs for the team back then, making 375 runs at a strike rate of nearly 159 including three fifties. Samson was also part of the Royals leadership group comprising Smith, head coach Andrew McDonald, Jos Buttler, and Ben Stokes.