Steve Smith: Exciting to be back leading Royals

“I am looking forward to this year, hopefully we can start well and build momentum throughout and hopefully be there, come finals time,” says Steve Smith.

In charge: Steve Smith will be leading the Rajasthan Royals again in this IPL season.   -  AP

 

Ever since returning to international cricket, following a one-year ban for his involvement in sandpapergate, Steven Smith has let his willow do the talking.

After an impressive outing in the World Cup last year, Smith made his presence felt in the Ashes and later followed it up with a fine form in the home series against Pakistan and New Zealand.

In the ODI series against India too, Smith played some gritty knocks — 98 in the second ODI in Rajkot followed by 131 in the final ODI in Bengaluru.

And this summer, the 30-year-old will also be leading Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL). “I am looking forward to this year, hopefully we can start well and build momentum throughout and hopefully be there, come finals time,” he tells Sportstar during an interaction.

With Australian Andrew McDonald joining as the head coach of Royals, Smith is looking forward to a successful season.

You are back as the captain of Rajasthan Royals. How do you see this opportunity? Last year, it was a different experience as you had to step up in the middle of the season while this year, you will be leading from the front. What are the challenges... what plans do you have in mind?

Yeah look, it’s exciting to be back leading Royals. I have had a few opportunities to lead Royals throughout and I don’t think I have actually started a year as captain before, so I am excited about that. I think we have a really good squad, some quality Indian players, some terrific overseas players and I think we have got a good mix of experience and youth. I am looking forward to this year, hopefully we can start well and build momentum throughout and hopefully be there, come finals time.

What are your thoughts on Rajasthan Royals’ squad this time. You would be working closely with Andrew McDonald. How do you see that coming through for the team in IPL 2020? Do you think Royals have been able to tick all the boxes and this team will turn around this season?

Yeah, I think we had a good auction. I have heard some terrific things about young (Yashasvi) Jaiswal, we’ve got Robin Uthappa with some experience having played a lot in the IPL. Tom Curran who’s been smashing it in the Big Bash, I think David Miller has been a proven performer at the IPL, we’ve got Oshane Thomas back who played really well at the back end of last season. So yeah, I think we’ve got a good mix and hopefully we can give the tournament a shake this year.

Personally it has been fantastic for you last year, but you have been destructive in the longer format of the game as compared to the shorter format. What are your targets for 2020?

I made my international comeback during the Ashes and fortunately was able to do well in England. Obviously, back home in the summer I played in five Tests there. So yeah, I have been playing a lot of Tests and was able to perform. Moving ahead towards the World T20 in Australia, I would love to be a part of that. I have some happy memories of the 50-over World Cup there back home in 2015 and would like to do well again. I hope to play a lot more of T20s and continue to score runs across all the formats.

In the right direction: “There’s good competition within the Australian squad across all formats and I think as we move through the year closer to the World T20 we might see more youngsters possibly coming into the squad,” says Steve Smith.   -  AP

 

Youngsters like Marnus Labuschagne have fared well for Australia. What are your thoughts on youngsters emerging in Australian cricket? And also, what are Australia’s plans for the T20 World Cup?

Yeah, there are good players coming in back home in Australia. Marnus, obviously has done well recently. There’s good competition within the squad across all formats and I think as we move through the year closer to the World T20 we might see more youngsters possibly coming into the Australia squad.

What is your message to the cricketers who are going through mental stress and anxiety?

Mental health, at the moment, is a big issue around the world with both athletes and non-athletes. For me it’s all about having a group of people around you who you can talk to, air your problems, air what you’re going through and what you’re thinking and those people can help you get through the difficult stages. My message would be, when you’re going through a difficult stage have faith that it’s going to get better, it might not feel like it at certain times but time heals all wounds in a way. The more you stick it out and have faith that it’s going to be okay, the more it helps and it will be okay.