Indian Premier League side Rajasthan Royals on Monday replaced Australia’s Steve Smith as captain over his role in a ball-tampering controversy.
Smith, who is on a $1.9-million contract with the Royals, will be replaced by India’s Ajinkya Rahane as skipper for the new IPL season starting April 7.
“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,” the club said.
Australia captain Smith, 28, was banned for one Test by the International Cricket Council after admitting that he and a group of his players planned ball tampering during the third Test against South Africa.
“The incident in Cape Town has certainly disturbed the cricket world. We have been in constant touch with the BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India] and taken their counsel. Furthermore we have been in regular contact with Steve,” said Zubin Bharucha, Royals head of cricket.
Rajasthan Royals won the inaugural IPL 11 years ago under Shane Warne but this year are returning from a two-year ban for corruption, which increased pressure on the franchise for action over Smith.
“Rajasthan Royals will do everything possible to protect the values and the integrity of the game,” said the team’s co-owner Manoj Badale.
“We agree with Steve’s decision to step down as captain, and we are fortunate to have such a capable successor with Ajinkya Rahane.”
Badale added: “What happened in South Africa was clearly wrong, especially given that it appears to have been premeditated. That said, this will be a difficult time for Steve as well, given how much he cares about the game.”
Smith hugely popular
Smith is a hugely popular player in India and last year featured for Rising Pune Supergiants alongside England’s Ben Stokes, who is also with the Royals this year.
The controversy surrounding Smith exploded on day three of the Cape Town Test on Saturday, when Australia’s Cameron Bancroft was caught using yellow tape to alter the condition of the ball before hiding it in his underwear.
Smith took full responsibility for Bancroft’s actions, admitting the move was planned with the national team’s “leadership group” and was “a big mistake”.
Australia’s senior opening batsman David Warner stepped down from the vice-captain’s post over the scandal but escaped punishment by the ICC. A decision on Warner’s role as skipper of IPL side Sunrisers Hyderabad is awaited.
Cricket Australia is also investigating the actions of Smith and his Australian teammates.