Australia’s Steve Smith hit an unbeaten half-century to lead his Indian Premier League side Rajasthan Royals to a comfortable win after being appointed captain on Saturday.
Smith was given the leadership job in place of India’s Ajinkya Rahane ahead of the game against Mumbai Indians in Jaipur, despite the Australian being barred from leading the national team over a ball-tampering scandal.
Smith – who along with compatriot David Warner missed the 2018 edition of the Twenty20 tournament because of the scandal – made an unbeaten 59 off 48 as Rajasthan outplayed Mumbai by five wickets. “Haven’t contributed as much as I’d like through this tournament, it was nice to get off to a good start and take the boys home,” Smith said after his team’s third win in nine games so far.
“We can’t worry about other results, it’s about us and our processes. For us, it’s a final, every game. We did well to pull it back to 160 (161) and executed our skills well,” he added.
The star batsman, who was named man of the match, hit five fours and one six to anchor Rajasthan’s chase as they achieved their 162-run target with five balls to spare. Rajasthan bowlers restricted Mumbai to 161 for five in 20 overs despite a brisk 65 from South African wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock.
Smith and Warner were not allowed to compete in last year’s IPL despite their one-year suspension restricted to club and national games for Australia.
The former Aussie captain has made his way back into the national team for the upcoming World Cup but cannot take on formal leadership responsibilities for another year.
Smith and Warner’s cheating ban ended last month and the two have launched into the IPL campaign as they seek to restore their reputations. Smith, who was captain of Rajasthan in 2015 and also led the now defunct IPL franchise Rising Pune Supergiant for two years till 2017, has scored 245 runs in eight matches this season.
The team management are gambling on Smith boosting confidence to get the side to the play-offs.
“Steve is one of the most innovative and successful captains in the world, in all formats of the game,” said Rajasthan’s head of cricket Zubin Bharucha.
“We are confident he can lead the Royals to success.”
Smith and Warner were suspended for cheating in a South Africa-Australia Test in March last year along with teammate Cameron Bancroft, who was banned for nine-months.
Rajasthan Royals 162/5 in 19.1 overs (Steve Smith 59 not out, Riyan Parag 43; Rahul Chahar 3/29) beat Mumbai Indians 161/5 (Quinton de Kock 65, Suryakumar Yadav 34; Shreyas Gopal 2/21) by 5 wickets.
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