Disgraced Australia cricketer Steve Smith on Monday stepped down as the captain of the Indian Premier League franchise Rajasthan Royals following the infamous ball-tampering row that has rocked the cricket fraternity. The 2008 IPL champions have named star India batsman Ajinkya Rahane as the new skipper ahead of the 11th season of the league, starting April 7.
"The game is bigger than any individual and we hold this thought close to our heart,” said Manoj Badale, the co-owner of Rajasthan Royals.
The Rajasthan Royals are making a comeback in this year's IPL following serving a two-year suspension due to the involvement of their officials in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal. Smith was part of the franchise in 2014 and 2015 before playing for the Rising Pune Supergiant in 2016 and 2017. Smith also led Rising Pune Supergiant to the final of the IPL 2017, where they lost against eventual champions Mumbai Indians.
Smith was the only player retained by Rajasthan Royals ahead of the mega IPL 2018 Players Auction.
In a press release, Rajasthan Royals said: "Steve believes given the current circumstances 'it's in the best interest of the Rajasthan Royals that he steps down as Captain so the team can get ready for the start of the IPL without the ongoing distractions.'
"Rajasthan Royals will do everything possible to protect the values and the integrity of the game. We agree with Steve's decision to step down as captain, and we are fortunate to have such a capable successor with Ajinkya Rahane. It is important that all cricket fans retain a balanced perspective on the situation. What happened in South Africa was clearly wrong, especially given that it appears to have been pre-meditated. That said, this will be a difficult time for Steve as well, given how much he cares about the game," added Badale.
Rajasthan Royals appoint @ajinkyarahane88 as the captain for #IPL2018— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) March 26, 2018
“The game is bigger than any individual and we hold this thought close to our heart.”- Manoj Badale , the co-owner of Rajasthan Royals
Read more: https://t.co/qBQbgUFb2u pic.twitter.com/iy3sMVWlc1
Rajasthan Royals will launch their season with an away fixture against Sunrisers Hyderabad on April 9 followed by their first home game in Jaipur on April 11 against the Delhi Daredevils at the Sawai Mansingh stadium.
Ranjit Barthakur, Executive Chairman, Rajasthan Royals, said, "Ajinkya Rahane has stepped up as a leader whenever he has been given the opportunity, be it for Team India or at Rajasthan Royals. We consider him the right candidate to lead the side this crucial season when the team is coming back to the IPL after two years. We wish him all the best.
Smith was banned for one match by the International Cricket Council on Sunday for his role in a ball-tampering plot in the third Test in South Africa but Cameron Bancroft, the player who did the tampering, avoided a suspension.
Smith admitted "he was party to a decision to attempt to change the condition of the ball in order to gain an unfair advantage," the ICC said after Smith confessed to hatching a plan, apparently with at least one other unnamed senior player, to cheat in the match against South Africa.
Smith was also fined his entire match fee, cricket's governing body said.
He will now miss the fourth and final Test in Johannesburg, where Australia is likely to be up against it and playing to save the series. South Africa was on course to take a 2-1 series lead after assuming a position of control in the third game in Cape Town on Sunday.
Newcomer Bancroft, who was tasked by the Australia team's "leadership group" to do the cheating, according to Smith, was given three disciplinary demerit points but that was not enough for a ban.
Smith and Bancroft confessed on Saturday to a plan to try and cheat against South Africa by tampering with the ball using a piece of yellow adhesive tape and some dirt in order to get the ball to swing.
Although Smith confessed the plan was hatched by the Australia team's "leadership group," he refused to name any other players involved and the ICC didn't announce action against anyone else in its ruling on Sunday.