IPL 2021: Sanju Samson replaces Smith as captain of RR
Budding wicket-keeper Sanju Samson has been named as the captain of Rajasthan Royals for the upcoming Indian Premier League edition. The 26-year-old replaced Australian maestro Steve Smith as the skipper after the latter was released by the franchise. Samson's reward comes as a result of his amazing run in the 2020 season. Meanwhile, SL legend Kumar Sangakkara will join as the Director of Cricket.
Rajasthan Royals co-owner Manoj Badale confirmed the news as the IPL 2021 Player Retention event kicked-off on Wednesday. "Sanju is at the start of his journey as a leader - and Kumar Sangakkara is joining as a director of cricket. He's understated and is a very, very strong individual. [Being a] Wicketkeeper is a great position to captain the team," he said.
Samson, in a media release, expressed his contentment. "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," he said.
As the news of Smith's departure surfaced earlier this year, Samson appeared to be the front-runner for the captaincy role. In the last season, he racked up 375 runs from 14 matches at an average of 28.84, including three fifties. Interestingly, he smashed second-most sixes (26) in the edition after Ishan Kishan (30). Samson is presently leading Kerala in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament.
Ahead of the 2018 auction, Smith was the only player to be retained by RR (Rs. 12.5 crores). He was appointed the captain for their comeback season, however, he stepped down in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal. Smith returned a season later, taking over the mantle from Ajinkya Rahane midway through the tournament. However, they still missed the playoffs berth.
In 2020, Rajasthan Royals failed to qualify for playoffs, having finished last in the league stage. Despite having a number of match-winners ranging from Ben Stokes to 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. The Rajasthan-based franchise would want to turn the tables under Samson.