Steve Smith is among the best all-format batters in the world at the moment. Although Test cricket is where he is at his unshakable best, the Australian can be a reliable batsman in the T20 format as well. Having been released by his franchise, the Rajasthan Royals (RR), Smith is now bound to be targeted by various IPL franchises at the auction for the 2021 edition of the tournament.
It is noteworthy that Smith was the captain of RR last season and he would thus bring in the aspect of leadership in any team he comes to as well. Although, he had a below par 2020 edition where he scored 311 runs, the 31-year-old would want to make a statement with his performances in 2021. Here are five franchises who could target the former Australian skipper in the auction which is set to take place on February 18.
Although the prospect of Rajasthan Royals (RR) signing Smith again might seem unlikely, one can not rule it out. It has to be noted that Smith’s price for the 2021 season would have been Rs. 12.5 crores had RR retained him. Therefore, if they release him at the auction and buy him back for a lesser price, they would save a huge amount of money which can then be spent on other players.
If RR do sign Smith, he would not be the captain however, as Sanju Samson has already been named as the skipper. He could however, prove to be an asset with the bat.
Chennai Super Kings
The Chennai Super Kings (CSK) franchise had a forgettable 2020 edition of the IPL as they finished outside the playoff spots for the first time ever in their history. Despite calls for a revamp, CSK have chose to retain a majority of their players. The retirement of Shane Watson has led to just one overseas slot freeing up while all other overseas players have been retained.
Steve Smith could fit in perfectly into the team as he is a middle-order batsman which is where CSK lack strength and consistency. He could also be an option to open the innings and can drop anchor and preserve his wicket to allow other batters to play freely. Smith’s prior experiences with skipper MS Dhoni and vice-versa while they were at Rising Pune Supergiant could come in handy.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) are a side who have never lifted the IPL trophy in their history. The side came close in 2020 but found itself eliminated in the eliminator. With an eye on the 2021 edition, they’ve released a big chunk of their players which includes a plethora of overseas players which in turn frees up slots to buy more.
The addition of Smith could add stability to the RCB line-up as it could make for a middle-order consisting of Smith, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers – three of the best all-format batsmen in the world. Alternatively, Smith can also open the innings and fill up the released Aaron Finch‘s spot.
Delhi Capitals (DC) came close to winning their first IPL trophy in 2020 as they finished runners-up after a promising season. Their batting line-up came together as a unit and fired buoyed by Shikhar Dhawan’s terrific run of form. Ahead of the 2021 auction, DC released quite a few overseas players who were found surplus to requirements last year. They would now be on the lookout to fill up the slots.
The acquisition of Steve Smith could bode well for the team as it would make for a stable middle-order consisting of Smith, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant. This would give license to the openers Dhawan and Marcus Stoinis to cut loose a little more and bat with freedom.
Kings XI Punjab
Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) had a season of highs and lows and eventually missed out on a playoff spot in their final league match. Their batting looked to be too dependent on skipper KL Rahul which was only eased when Chris Gayle returned to the line-up and found form. However, with the West Indian aging and following the release of Glenn Maxwell, KXIP would want a solid middle-order batsman.
This is where Smith would be a perfect fit. The Australian could play the role of an anchor at No. 4 and would be invaluable when early wickets fall for the side. A top 4 of KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle and Steve Smith does look menacing and bowlers would find it difficult to contain the scoring and pick wickets.