IPL 2021: Rajasthan Royals might release Smith ahead of auction
Rajasthan Royals are likely to release captain Steve Smith ahead of the 2021 IPL auction. As per a report in ESPNcricinfo, the Royals will take a final call before submitting the list of retained players. Notably, the deadline for finalizing the same is January 20. It is understood that Smith could be removed considering his poor run in the IPL 2020.
Rajasthan Royals finished last in league stage
Rajasthan Royals, who yet again failed to qualify for playoffs, finished last in the league stage (2020). Despite owning a number of match-winners ranging from Ben Stokes to Sanju Samson, the Royals couldn't sail through. Smith's own form was under the scanner as he mustered 311 runs from 14 games at 25.91. His lackluster on-field decisions were also highlighted by the critics.
Smith was backed by the Royals
Smith was backed by Rajasthan in 2019 as he took over the reigns from Ajinkya Rahane midway through the tournament. However, they still missed the playoffs berth. Ahead of the 2018 auction, Smith was the only player to be retained by them (Rs. 12.5 crore). He was appointed the captain for RR's comeback season, however, he stepped down in the wake of a ball-tampering scandal.
RR yet to win a title after 2008
Rajasthan Royals made history in 2008 as they won the inaugural IPL edition under legend Shane Warne. Ever since, they haven't won the IPL title, and qualified for the playoffs only thrice (2013, 2015 and 2018).
Sanju Samson appears to be the front-runner
The Royals would want to appoint a new leader as soon as they release Smith. Indian wicket-keeper Sanju Samson appears to be the front-runner for the captaincy role. He recently led Kerela to their first victory at the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament. He was also one of the impact players in the IPL 2020, following which, he toured Down Under.
Are Stokes and Buttler feasible options?
One might argue that Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler have more experience in terms of captaincy. They have substantial international experience for the role, which will certainly benefit the Royals. However, the availability of English players always remains in doubt as their international assignments usually clash with the IPL. It will be interesting to see if Samson gets the go-ahead, considering this scenario.