The thirteenth edition of the Indian Premier League kicked off this Saturday with the Chennai Super Kings taking on the Mumbai Indians at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. While the Super Kings from Chennai took the win in their first outing against Rohit Sharma’s team, the limelight shifted from Chennai to the Rajasthan Royals, who are likely to start their campaign in the absence of one of their core players.
Steven Smith, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer-who were all part of the recently concluded One Day series between England and Australia- have just joined the Royals camp twenty-four hours ago, and therefore have to undergo the mandatory thirty six hour quarantine.
Premier Australia batsman Smith could not get playing time in the ODI series against England, for he was ruled out with concussion problems. His participation in the Royals’ opening game is, therefore, subject to the franchise’s and Cricket Australia’s discretion.
“Smith, Buttler and Archer underwent COVID-19 tests on Friday and results are negative. So, they are available for selection with quarantine duration being reduced to 36 hours,” said an IPL source.
While Steven Smith wasn’t of much use in the recently concluded One Day series, his compatriots stepped up to the task in his absence. The Aussies beat reigning World Champions England 2-1 in what proved to be a nail biting finish. Alex Carey and Glenn Maxwell shone in the ever so important series finale, with both of them registering tons for their country. The latter also went on to take home a well deserved ‘Player of the Series’ trophy. He definitely pleased a lot men sitting in the Kings XI Punjab dressing room with his performance, and only time will tell how he does donning red yet again in the IPL.
The side from Rajasthan play their first game against MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings on Tuesday next week. Going in without their leader Steven Smith could prove to be detrimental for their chances against the yellow brigade. The Super Kings seem to be in impeccable form, having beaten the defending champions and their arch rivals Mumbai Indians comprehensively in the tournament opener. Ambati Rayudu and Faf du Plessis shone for them with the bat, while Lungi Ngidi got the wickets for them.
Smith is the glue that binds the whole Royals’ batting order together, and in his alleged absence, it would be interesting to see who gets the nod for the role. Also, the Royals will most definitely miss his leadership skills, and the fact that they don’t have Ajinkya Rahane as his second in command further strengthens the argument. It is more than likely that the Pink think tank would hand the captain’s arm band to Jos Butler, who has never led an IPL team before. It shall be intriguing to see how he will fare in the likely absence of Smith.