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Australian Steve Smith Steps Down as Captain of Rajasthan Royals

Steve Smith on the right with David Warner
©Reuters
 

The 2018 Indian Premier League campaign is about to get underway, but one squad is already dealing with controversy. Steve Smith, the captain of Rajasthan Royals, has announced that he will step down as captain amid the Australian ball-tampering controversy.

Smith, who played in the controversial match for Australia against South Africa in their defeat over the weekend, admitted to having tampered with the ball. The 28-year-old was subsequently banned for a Test and fined his entire match wage by cricket’s world governing body.

Smith’s suspension may have a negative impact on the Royals’ chances at a playoff berth this season. That said, they aren’t among the favorites, even with Smith. If you’re a bettor interested in finding the best bonus along with the most favorable odds, you’ll see that most books list the Royals among the worst teams in the IPL. As of now, the Royals are listed at 7/1 to win the league this year, which gives them the sixth-best odds among the league’s eight teams. Royal Challengers Bangalore are listed as favorites at 5/1.

Smith said that he has stepped aside so that the Royals can continue to prepare for the upcoming season “without the ongoing distractions.” He will be replaced as captain by Ajinkya Rahane.

The season is set to get underway on Sunday, April 7, and the Royals will play their first match on April 9 against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Sunrisers are captained by Smith’s Australian teammate, David Warner.

Smith and Warner were also captain and co-captain of the Australian side, but they agreed to step down from their respective posts ahead of the Australians’ fourth Test against South Africa.

Smith reportedly hatched the plan to mess with the ball in order to “get an advantage” against the South Africans. Cameron Bancroft reportedly carried out the task, as he was seen on video using tape and grit to scuff the match ball. He was the only other player that was reportedly in on the scheme, and he was subsequently fined.

All three players are currently under investigation by Cricket Australia.

Royals head of cricket Zubin Bharucha said, “The incident in Cape Town has certainly disturbed the cricket world. We have been in constant touch with the BCCI (Indian cricket board) and taken their counsel. Furthermore, we have been in regular contact with Steve.”

The Royals have reportedly agreed with Smith’s decision to step aside as team captain, but the team’s co-owner, Manoj Badale, said that fans must keep “a balanced perspective on the situation.” He added, “What happened in South Africa was clearly wrong, especially given that it appears to have been premeditated. That said, this will be a difficult time for Steve as well, given how much he cares about the game.”

Smith, who is one of the most decorated cricketers in the world, first came to the IPL when he was bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2010. He made a few stops around the league before being bought by the Royals for $600,000 in 2014. 

Smith ascended to become the team’s captain in the latter stages of the 2015 season and helped the team to a playoff appearance that year. Last season, Smith was the captain of Rising Pune Supergiants, but Pune would go on to lose in the playoffs by one run against Mumbai.

Earlier this month, the ICC Player Rankings named Smith as the top-ranked Test batsman on the planet. He won the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy (cricketer of the year) in 2015 as well as ICC Test Player of the Year in both 2015 and 2017. He plays domestically for New South Wales and Sydney Sixers.