Australian batsman Steve Smith's poor run of form in T20 cricket continued with his sluggish 34-ball 39 on return to the playing XI of Delhi Capitals (DC) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 match against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
The Aussie hasn't had the best time in the IPL over the last few seasons. In 26 matches for the Rajasthan Royals as a captain last two seasons, Smith scored 630 runs at 26.25 at a strike rate of just 123.04 with six half-centuries. The indifferent returns saw Royals sacking Smith as the captain before releasing him ahead of IPL 2021 auction earlier this year.
Roped in by Delhi, Smith scored 104 runs in five innings, his only T20 appearances in the calendar year, at a strike rate of just 112.19, his worst for any IPL season, laced with just nine boundaries and one six.
With injured Prithvi Shaw missing out of playing XI, Smith was included in the lineup as an opener. But the move backfired as Delhi got off to a sedate start before losing Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer early, and reached their slowest fifty of the season. His run-a-ball knock continued, putting additional pressure on captain Rishabh Pant, before dragging an inside edge into the leg-stump to depart for 39 off 34, comprising only 34 runs.
Smith's batting raises concern for Australia as well, who have added the former captain to the T20 World Cup squad despite not making an international appearance in the format since 2020. What adds to their woe is Smith's boundary rate of 9.07 in IPL 2021, which is the second-highest among all batters who have faced at least 100 balls this season.