MUMBAI (Reuters) – Former Australia batsman Steve Smith returned as the captain of the Rajasthan Royals on Saturday and will replace Ajinkya Rahane at the helm for the remainder of the 2019 edition of the Indian Premier League, the franchise said.
Rajasthan, the inaugural IPL champions in 2008, have just two wins from eight games this year and are second-to-last on the table and only above Royal Challengers Bangalore in the eight-team league due to a better net run-rate.
“Rajasthan Royals will be led by the Australian batsman Steven Smith for the upcoming matches of the IPL,” the team said in a statement.
“Ajinkya Rahane did a fantastic job in leading the team to the playoffs last year, however, the franchisee now thinks a fresh approach is needed to bring their 2019 campaign back on track.
“Steve has always been part of the leadership team within RR and Rahane will continue to be a key voice in the side, therefore the Royals see this as a small restructuring process to secure the results required to move up the table.”
The 29-year-old Smith will lead the side later on Saturday when the Royals host the Mumbai Indians in Jaipur.
Smith stepped down as captain of the IPL side last year and was later stood down for the entire 2018 tournament following the ball tampering scandal in South Africa, in which both he and David Warner received 12 month bans that expired last month.
They have been included in Australia’s 15-man squad for the May 30-July 14 World Cup in England and Wales.
“Steve is one of the most innovative and successful captains in the world, in all formats of the game,” Zubin Bharucha, head of cricket for Rajasthan Royals, said.
“We are confident he can lead the Royals to success.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Greg Stutchbury)