Smith: 'Stokes is a perfect fit in our team'

Steve Smith had asked the Rising Pune Supergiant management to get Ben Stokes during the auction. "...just do what you have to get him," he'd told it. RPS heeded to Smith, paying Rs. 14.5 crore for Stokes. And, the latter is getting closer to justifying his astonishing fee.

"We paid a big amount to get him. Certainly earned his cash,” said Steve Smith of Ben Stokes after RPS's match against GL.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Rising Pune Supergiant's (RPS) teamwork came through in its fielding effort against Gujarat Lions (GL) on Monday. Skipper Steve Smith is an electrifying fielder, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is excellent behind the sticks but Washington Sundar, Manoj Tiwary, Rahul Tripathi, Jaydev Unadkat, Ajinkya Rahane also shone with safe catches and sharp throws. Rahane also ran out Suresh Raina with a quick throw to the wicket-keeper.

“For us it's about trying to get to know each other for six or eight weeks and try and get the best out of each other, learn a bit about one another," said Smith after beating the Lions, "We've got some really good characters in the shed there. It's nice to be playing some good cricket at the same time.” The Pune franchise recorded its sixth win after 10 matches, beating GL by five wickets at the MCA stadium.

Ben Stokes is a character whom Smith wanted in his side before the auction. And, Stokes is getting closer to justifying his astonishing fee of Rs 14.5 crore. GL got a glimpse of the England strongman's hitting ability.

“I had said before the auction to the guys, just do what you have to get him," Smith said, "We know he is a quality player. We paid a big amount to get him. Certainly earned his cash (103 not out).”

Asked about how he handles guys like Stokes, coming into the team with high expectations, the RPS captain pointed out: “We missed him in the last few games but (the other) guys stepped up and did a good job. You obviously tell him his role and how he's going to fit into the team. Ben has always said that he judges himself on how he plays and is not going to put any extra pressure on himself just because of big price tag next to his name.”

“All-rounders are so valuable in T20 cricket and he bats, bowls and fields well. Stokes is a perfect fit for our team. He's done a terrific job for us and hopefully can continue to perform and get us into the qualifiers and the final.”

“I'm just trying to stay as relaxed as I can and do the best I can for the team.”

The Pune team defeated Mumbai Indians in the last over, dominated play against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Gujarat Lions in consecutive home games. “We are on a nice little streak. This year we've been able to get over the line in those close games. Last year we were at the end of that. That's how T20 works sometimes.”

The  Aussie can surely contribute more with the bat, though as captain, RPS's recent performances give an impression of Smith settling into the leadership role.