Smith: ‘No issues between Dhoni and me’

The new captain says Dhoni has been supportive of him after change in captaincy.

Steve Smith (left), Sanjiv Goenka (second from left), Ben Stokes (third from left) and Ajinkya Rahane unveil the team jersey for the upcoming IPL season.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Steve Smith has said M. S. Dhoni has been supportive of him after the latter had taken over as captain of Rising Pune Supergiant.

“There are no issues between M. S. Dhoni and me. We have shared some messages, M. S. is very supportive and it doesn’t change my professional relationship with him or anyone else,” Smith said.

The prolific batsman was in New Delhi along with India’s Ajinkya Rahane and the season’s biggest signing, Ben Stokes, to unveil their team’s jersey for IPL 2017 and “formally welcome Stokes into the RPS family”. The change in captaincy appeared to have been prompted by Pune’s ordinary outing last year when it finished seventh in the points table after winning just five of its 14 matches.

Also present on the occasion was Sanjiv Goenka, chairman, RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group.

Looking ahead to the IPL after a gruelling Test series, Smith said, “It will be great to have so many great leaders from different countries, it’s a big plus and not a hindrance. I have plenty of guys to talk to, but I will not seek too many opinions. Seeking too many opinions can cloud your own judgement. I want to try and stay as clear as possible. But yes, if someone sees something and feels the need to point it out to me, they are more than welcome.”

When asked to speak on Dhoni’s removal from captaincy, Goenka sought to clear the air. “M. S. is joining us on April 3 in Pune. The team has been in constant touch with him and it is very amicable. A lot has been discussed about captaincy but I can say that Mahi has got one of the sharpest brains. I have worked with him before and I am his biggest fan.

“There is complete togetherness, complete unity in the team. I see a very good bonhomie.”

On Dhoni, Rahane said, “Whether he is captain or not a player like Dhoni bhai is always inspiration and we get to learn a lot.”

Speaking on Smith’s appointment as captain, Goenka said, “When you appoint a captain you do with full trust and confidence. I have admired the way Steve has led Australia over the last few months.”

‘High point of my career’

England’s Stokes, who is set to play in his first season of IPL, called his participation as “a high point of my career”. He said, “I am glad to be roped in by Pune team at the auction. I am hopeful to live up to the high expectation from fans in Pune as well as India. Playing for Rising Pune Supergiant is definitely going to be a high point of my career. This is a chance which I will work towards my team’s advantage with stalwarts like M. S. Dhoni, Faf du Plessis, Ravichandran Ashwin and Steve Smith, to learn and enjoy the games at the same time.”

Rahane and the rest felt the team was well balanced this time around. Rahane said, “I am quite in sync with the team structure as this will be my second year with Rising Pune Supergiant. Our team is well balanced with a good mix of talent from both national and international players. Ben Stokes is one of the most talented all-rounders in the world and we hope to get good support from him. Imran Tahir’s inclusion is definitely going to strengthen our bowling department and will lend variety to the team.”

On leading the side, Smith exuded exuberance. “I am looking forward to my new responsibility with much integrity and fervour. My experience of playing in India has been wonderful so far. This year we also have a new member Ben Stokes with us who will balance experience and skill in right dose. High and orderly performance with good bowling, fielding and batting will be the benchmark for judging the team. We hope to make Pune proud with good cricket.”

Pune Supergiant also announced Motorola as the team sponsor for the upcoming league.