Australia’s star batsman Steve Smith, who is the captain of the Rajasthan Royals, is likely to be released by the franchise ahead of the IPL 2021 auction in February. All the eight franchises have been asked to release the final list of the retained players by January 20.
Smith was part of the RR camp in the 2014 and 2015 seasons before the team got banned for two years from the cash-rich tournament. The former Australian skipper was the only player retained by the inaugural IPL champions ahead of the 2018 season. However, Ajinkya Rahane was appointed captain for the 2018 edition after Smith was banned for 12 months for his role in the infamous ball-tampering saga.
Smith returned to the Royals side in 2019 and was handed over the captaincy midway through the campaign. He also led Rajasthan during the 2020 season which was held in the UAE.
However, Smith's performances were far from impressive in IPL 2020 as he amassed 311 runs from 14 games at a strike rate of 131.
According to a report published in ESPNcricinfo, Smith also failed to make a mark as a captain which was discussed at length during the season review conducted by the franchise.
It is understood that the management wanted the team to be more consistent but RR finished the league stage in the 8th position. After winning the inaugural edition of IPL in 2008, the Royals have made it to the playoffs only thrice in 2013, 2015, and 2018.
The Royals will have to appoint a new skipper if Smith is released. As per the report, Sanju Samson, who was the top-scorer for the side in the 13th edition of the league, is the frontrunner for the top position.
While more experienced players like Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes are also part of the RR side, it is believed that the management is not keen on handing over the leadership duties to England pair as the business end of IPL usually clashes with the beginning of the English summer.
(Inputs from ESPNcricinfo)