R. Ashwin: Kings XI Punjab to take advantage of Steve Smith’s rustiness

Kings XI Punjab will make it difficult for him to get going when it takes on Rajasthan Royals on Monday, Ashwin says.

Steve Smith has taken part in Twenty20 leagues in Bangladesh and the Caribbean in recent months.   -  AFP

Kings XI Punjab hopes to take advantage of the rustiness of Steve Smith as he makes his comeback to the Indian Premier League fold after having missed the 2018 season, team captain R. Ashwin has said.

Smith, who plays for Rajasthan Royals, has not played international cricket for Australia since the controversial Test in Cape Town in March, 2018. For his role in the ball-tampering scandal in that Test, he was handed a one-year ban by Cricket Australia and was barred from the IPL, too.

He will play his first match in the IPL since 2017 when Royals takes on Kings XI here on Monday.

‘Quality player’

Commenting on the return of Smith, Ashwin said, “We all know he is a quality player and must have worked and prepared hard during the break but comebacks are not easy. He must have put a lot of efforts for a comeback mentally. I am sure he would look to perform and on the other hand, we would look to take advantage of his rustiness.”

Read | Kings XI hoping for a reversal of fortunes

Both Smith and Ashwin would wish to utilise the IPL to gain a spot in the World Cup squad for their respective teams. Ashwin was, however, irritated when asked whether he was still in the reckoning for the spot. “I can’t answer the question. Selectors have to answer that. But as far I am concerned I have played two World Cups. If I deserve and I am selected I would love to play,” he said.

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In limited-overs cricket, Ashwin has been away from action for some time. He played his last One-Day International on June 30, 2017, and his last Twenty20 International on July 9, 2017.

Adaptation the key

He felt adaptation was the key to stay strong. “Cricket now a days reveals all. There is [a] lot of analysis and cameras can read out every movement of your fingers. The secret is to adapt to conditions. Look at Virat Kohli. Earlier he was very strong on [the] leg-side but he adapted and now he is as strong on off-side too,” he said.

R. Ashwin (left) and Mike Hesson at a press conference on Sunday in Jaipur. Photo: Rohit Jain Paras

Another player who seems to have adapted well to stay strong in the present era is Chris Gayle. According to Mike Hesson, the Kings XI head coach, the West Indian is an asset to the side.

“The way he batted in the last series against quality bowlers and took on the spinners shows that he still is a formidable force. He is an asset on the field and in the dressing room where he helps youngsters groom,” he said.