The Rajasthan Royals have opted not to renew Steve Smith’s $2.5 million IPL contract, releasing the star Aussie batsman before the tournament’s inaugural auction.
Smith, Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell, three of Australia’s most celebrated exports to the Indian Premier League, were all released by their franchises on Wednesday.
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The trio were among the biggest names to be dropped when the franchises submitted their final list of retained and released players, although they could all be snapped up in the IPL auction next month.
Smith has enjoyed a long, fruitful relationship with the Rajasthan Royals and captained the side in last year’s tournament in the Middle East.
But the former Australia Test captain suffered a largely lean time with the bat in 2020, scoring 311 runs including three half-centuries, and his captaincy came under the spotlight as they finished last in the eight-team table.
The Royals have instead replaced Smith as skipper, promoting Indian wicketkeeper-batsman Sanju Samson to the role.
Reports in India suggested it had been a tough and intense decision for the team’s lead owner Manoj Badale to take as Smith has long been a favourite there but it was felt that the Royals needed a new home-based figurehead.
“I would especially like to thank Steve Smith for everything that he has done as a leader and captain of the Royals,” said Badale in a statement.
“His contribution on the field and his contribution off the field... has been immense.”
The news comes as another crushing blow for Smith after the pain of losing the recent Test series against India.
It was coming, Smith never seemed like he’s putting his everything, looked distracted unlike Warner who gives it all for SRH. They might as well get 2-3 good foreign players with the purse.
— KaKes KK🧢 (@kakeskkd) January 20, 2021
Why release him.. I think that's a wrong move
— Prajwal Kedlaya (@prajkedlaya) January 20, 2021
— Ashwin Doke (@ashwindoke) January 20, 2021
No hard feelings Smith. It's just brutal business.
— Arun Sam George (@Arunsamgeorge) January 20, 2021
Finch and Maxwell also cut by IPL franchises
There was clearly no room for sentiment as the Royals retained their powerful English World Cup winners Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, and Jofra Archer instead.
Meanwhile, Royal Challengers Bangalore decided to offload Australia’s T20 captain Finch, along with two other big overseas signings - South Africa’s Chris Morris and England's Moeen Ali.
Fellow Australians Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa, though, have been retained by RCB.
Finch will now be looking for a ninth IPL team after a poor IPL season by his standards in 2020, with just one half-century in 12 innings, while his recent stuttering form with the Melbourne Renegades in the BBL won't have helped.
Maxwell was another who suffered a poor season, scoring only 108 runs and taking three wickets in 13 games, and he’s paid the price by being dropped by Kings XI Punjab.
However, it is hard to imagine Maxwell won’t have plenty of suitors at the auction, especially after rediscovering his mojo in the BBL.
Billy Stanlake has been released by Sunrisers Hyderabad although David Warner retains his place as captain and key contributor, alongside fellow overseas luminaries Rashid Khan and Kane Williamson.
Mumbai Indians won the title but it has not stopped them releasing their overseas fast-bowling contingent, including the Australian duo of Nathan Coulter-Nile and James Pattinson.
Delhi Capitals have released Aussie wicketkeeper Alex Carey while Royal Challengers Bangalore announced that Delhi’s Daniel Sams would be joining their squad after a successful trade.
Australia Test vice-captain Pat Cummins has been retained as a key man for the Kolkata Knight Riders.
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