Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, this year’s Indian Premier League will be held outside India. Rajasthan Royals skipper Steve Smith is relieved that cricket has restarted after the extended break caused by the pandemic.
Like fellow international cricketers, Smith too has endured for months as the world tackles with the COVID-19 crisis.
Steve Smith expressed amusement towards resuming cricket
Smith will return to action in a limited-overs series in England, but his thoughts are already on IPL, which will be played in the United Arab Emirates from September 19 to November 8.
“It will be great to play some cricket. Like most of the world, we are also in sort of shutdown. We also had to find a way through this COVID experience, which has been incredibly difficult for everyone,” Smith said in a media interaction on Thursday after a special screening of “Inside Story: A season with Rajasthan Royals”, a documentary on the team’s tough 2019 season when they ended seventh.
“It will be great to play some compelling cricket against a quality England outfit. A few of my Royals teammates are there. Hopefully, they don’t score too many runs or take wickets in that series and save that for IPL,” he added.
Being restricted to a bio-bubble this time can take a loss mentally on the players and formulate for the 51-day league after months of non-action will also be a challenge.
“It will be difficult for anyone being away from their loved ones for an extended period. You kind of get used to it playing international cricket and do spend a long time apart. You find a way to make it work,” Smith said.
“A lot of people haven’t played any cricket, or have little games under their belt. So, it’s sort of an even contest. Everybody is going in with the same sort of preparation. It has been incredibly difficult this time. Guys are trying to get their cricket fixtures any way they can. Part of being a professional cricketer is being able to adapt to any condition. That’s going to be a pretty key message. Conditions in Dubai can be similar to India, it can be different. It’s about adapting on the run. A couple of players have experience playing there. Guys are going to be jumping out of their skin to play cricket. Disappointing it is not in India, but the important (thing) is to perform,” he added.
Smith is also betting big on Stokes this IPL, who was England’s World Cup hero last year.
“We have seen Stokes go from strength to strength in the last couple of years. He had an incredible World Cup last year. We saw in the Tests (vs Windies); he is bowling beautifully and taking wickets. Hopefully, he doesn’t keep that up when we go over there. He can keep that up in IPL,” he said.
“Stokes is playing incredible cricket and wants to be involved all the time, be it bat, bowl or on the field. He gets himself in the hot spots and wants the ball to come to him. Those are the players whom you want in your team. They are the ones who step up when pressure mounts and want to deliver. Glad we have him in our line-up. Hopefully, it’s a big season for the boys.” Smith further added.
Rajasthan Royals, being champions of the inaugural season, infiltrated the playoffs in 2018 under Rahane as Smith conformed a ball-tampering ban.
Last season, Rahane was removed as captain after RR won only two out of eight games to lie seventh, where they finished.
“Clarity in communication is important. The reasoning by the management is important. The decision was taken first to unlock Jinks’ batting potential. We know how incredible a batsman he is. It took the pressure off him and one saw that in his performance. Steve is a captain with the highest win percentage and who loves that responsibility,” COO Jake Lush McCrum said.
Royals are no outsiders to highs and lows. The surprise winners in 2008 were discontinued for two years after its co-owner was found guilty of illegal betting in the 2013 season and three players were banned. Kings XI Punjab skipper R Ashwin ‘Mankading’ Buttler led to controversy while Stokes and Jaydev Unadkat didn’t click.
In the documentary, produced by Red Bull Media House, one gets a peek into boardroom talk, pool sessions, team meetings, player diet, and mental training sessions with surfer Mark Mathews.]The overriding theme though is to do way better this season. The documentary will be broadcast on JioTv from August 1.