Ahead of the Indian Premier League auction, Rajasthan Royals opted to release Steve Smith. They did, however, keep hold of other star players, including Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, and Jos Buttler. Fascinatingly, the decision to part ways with the Australian caused quite a stir in the cricket world. This is because many believed that the one-time winners of the competition should have retained the elite-level batsman.
However, although there can be no doubt that Smith is an exceptional batsman, he struggled to deliver in 2020. For someone on a reported salary of around $1.6million, more was expected of the 31-year-old than a 25.91 average last year. Following his release, the Delhi Capitals saw an opportunity and picked up the experienced Australian for $298,000. So, can Smith take the Capitals to their maiden IPL triumph in 2021?
Seeking to Bounce Back from the 13th Edition
Last year, the Delhi Capitals enjoyed their best season in the IPL. Since the tournament came to fruition in 2008, the team coached by Ricky Ponting has finished in the top four on five occasions. However, they’ve only once made the final. After recording a second-place finish in the league phase, the Capitals defeated Sunrisers Hyderabad in the second qualifier to book their place in the final. Unfortunately, against Rohit Sharma’s record-holding Mumbai Indians, they lost the finale by five wickets.
In the highly-anticipated clash, the Capitals started slowly, with their top-order batsman struggling to find their rhythm. For just 17 runs, Shreyas Iyer’s side lost Ajinkya Rahane, Marcus Stoinis, and Shikhar Dhawan. Although Rishabh Pant, along with the captain, would hit a combined 121 off 88 balls, it proved to be too little too late.
The final, which took place in the United Arab Emirates, illustrated the level required to win the IPL crown. Within the game, Mumbai’s top-order players stepped up the plate. Aside from Sharma, who hit 68 off 51 balls, Quinton de Kock and Suryakumar Yadav scored a combined 39. Meanwhile, Ishan Kishan, who has the most sixes in the 2020 IPL, registered a match-winning knock of 33 from 19 deliveries. In many ways, the top order’s efficiency dipped below the required level when it mattered most for DC, and that’s where Smith may prove to be the difference.
What Does Smith Offer?
At the time of writing, the official IPL website states that the Australian has the 21st best batting average in the competition’s history. To date, the 31-year-old’s average sits at 35.37, more than Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard, Sachin Tendulkar, Sharma, and many other established players. Moreover, since 2012, Smudge has only seen his average drop below 27 in 2015 and 2020. Those campaigns aside, he’s predominantly batted at 39 and above. In perspective, Virat Kohli’s all-time IPL batting average sits at 38.16, while the current Chennai Super Kings captain, MS Dhoni, averages 40.99 at the crease.
Aside from a more-than-capable batsman, DC now have another natural leader in their ranks. Although the Rajasthan Royals finished bottom of the IPL in 2020, their failure isn’t an accurate reflection of Smith’s leadership. Looking at the sport as a whole, Smudge is statically one of the best captains in the tournament’s history. In the 43 matches that the Australian has captained, he’s won 59.52 percent of them. By comparison, that’s only fractionally lower than Dhoni, who’s triumphed in 59.65 percent of his games as CSK’s captain.
As of February 26th, Betway Sports have the Delhi Capitals at odds of 5.5 to win the IPL in 2021, and few can argue that Smith’s arrival won’t help their chances. Although he struggled in 2020, he’s a far better limited-overs cricketer than he showed in the 13th edition of the competition. In Times Now News, Smith stated that he hopes to help the team go one better this year, and a fully-motivated Smudge is a frightening prospect for rival IPL franchises.
A Golden Opportunity to Respond
Ahead of the 14th IPL campaign, few can argue that the Delhi Capitals don’t have a star-studded batting attack in their roster. Single-handedly, Smith can’t carry DC over the line, but he may provide the difference in pivotal moments, particularly if Dhawan, Rahane, and Stoinis struggle in the opening overs. As such, there’s no reason that Iyer’s team won’t be genuine contenders for their maiden IPL title in 2021.