MELBOURNE: Steven Smith has “stepped down” as captain of Rajasthan Royals for the 2018 IPL season, in the wake of his admission to orchestrating a plan to tamper with the ball during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town. India batsman Ajinkya Rahane will lead Royals, who are returning to the IPL this year after serving a two-year ban for corruption during the 2013 season of the tournament.
Both Smith and Rahane had represented the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant franchise for the last two years while Royals served the ban. Smith had been retained by the returning Royals franchise ahead of the 2018 IPL player auction, while Rahane was brought back for INR 4 crore (USD 625,000 approx) using a right-to-match card.
Though Smith will not lead Royals, he will available for selection. According to the franchise, only if Smith gets banned by Cricket Australia or if the BCCI says he cannot play, will he not play the IPL.
In a statement issued on Monday, the franchise said it was in “best interest of Rajasthan Royals that he steps down as captain” so that the team can prepare for the tournament without any “ongoing distractions.”
Zubin Bharucha, the head of cricket at Royals, said Rahane was the automatic choice as a replacement captain because he had been with the franchise for a long time.
“The incident in Cape Town has certainly disturbed the cricket world. We have been in constant touch with the BCCI and taken their counsel,” Bharucha said. “Furthermore we have been in regular contact with Steve. Ajinkya Rahane has been an integral part of the Royals family for a long time now and he understands the culture and values of our team. We have absolutely no doubt that he will be a great leader of the Rajasthan Royals.”
Manoj Badale, the Royals’ co-owner, said what happened in Cape Town was “clearly wrong”. “It is important that all cricket fans retain a balanced perspective on the situation. What happened in South Africa was clearly wrong, especially given that it appears to have been pre-meditated,” Badale said. “That said, this will be a difficult time for Steve as well, given how much he cares about the game.”
Smith has already been banned for one Test and fined 100% of his match fee by the ICC for his role in the ball-tampering incident that occurred on the third day of the Newlands Test, and he was stood down as captain – along with David Warner as vice-captain – by Cricket Australia before the fourth day’s play began. CA took that decision in the face of mounting pressure at home, from the Australian government, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the public. The board appointed Tim Paine as caretaker captain for the remainder of the Cape Town Test – which Australia lost on the fourth day – and Smith and Warner took the field under the wicketkeeper’s leadership.
CA chief executive James Sutherland flew to South Africa on Monday to join the board’s Head of Integrity Iain Roy and team performance manager Pat Howard, who had already flown to Cape Town to launch an inquiry into the ball-tampering scandal.
Sunrisers Hyderabad have made no comment on the future of Warner as their captain. As of Sunday, the Sunrisers’ stand was that they would retain Warner as captain subject unless the BCCI directed otherwise or Cricket Australia banned the batsman.