After enduring a disappointing season so far, Rajasthan Royals have made a major decision. Former Australia captain Steve Smith has been handed over the captaincy of the team in place of Ajinkya Rahane.
The Jaipur-based side is lying second-last on the points table, above only Royal Challengers Bangalore. They have managed only two victories in their eight matches and have suffered six losses. On top of that, the team is on the verge of being knocked out and have the near-impossible task of winning almost all their remaining six matches in order to give themselves a chance of going into the playoffs.
Challenges for Smith
Things are only going to get tougher for the side as two of their most important players – Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes – will leave the team and return to their national side. Smith himself will leave the team on May 1, though, by that time, the Royals would have just one game remaining – provided they don't reach the playoffs. In this scenario, the team management has decided to hand over the captaincy to a man who has had success in the leadership role.
Steve Smith was the captain of Rising Pune Supergiant in the 2017 season and took his team to the brink of winning the trophy. They lost a thrilling final by just one run but enjoyed considerable success that year. Smith's leadership came under a huge cloud when he was found engaged in the dubious tactic of ball-tampering during the third Test in South Africa last year. The prolific right-hander was stripped of his captaincy and handed a one-year ban.
However, the Rajasthan side feels that his leadership qualities are just what their fledgeling side needs as they struggle to find their footing in the current season of IPL. In a statement that sought to soften the blow for Rahane, the team management said, "Ajinkya Rahane did a fantastic job in leading the team to the playoffs last year. However, the franchisee now thinks a fresh approach is needed to bring their 2019 campaign back on track. Steve has always been part of the leadership team within RR and Rahane will continue to be a key voice in the side."
Opportunity for Smith
This return to leadership comes at a key moment for Smith. Tainted by the ball-tampering scandal, he now has an opportunity to re-establish his leadership credentials. In the long run, this gives the former Aussie captain a chance to regain his position. At the moment though, he has a mountain to climb and would need the support of every player – Rahane included. But he has nothing to lose and everything to gain from this promotion.