IPL 2019: Mistakes can happen, we will welcome Steve Smith with love -  Ajinkya Rahane
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IPL 2019: Mistakes can happen, we will welcome Steve Smith with love - Ajinkya Rahane

Rajasthan Royals suffered a big jolt before the start of the IPL last year as designated skipper Steve Smith was banned following his involvement in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

cricket Updated: Feb 11, 2019 17:03 IST
Ankit Kumar Singh
Ankit Kumar Singh
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
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File image of Steve Smith (left) and Ajinkya Rahane.(PTI)

Captaincy of the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL) came to Ajinkya Rahane under trying circumstances last year. Royals, who were returning to the IPL fold after a hiatus of two years, had suffered a big jolt before the start of the tournament when designated skipper Steve Smith was banned following his involvement in the ball-tampering scandal. Rahane, to his credit, though showed exemplary acumen in leading the side to the play-offs where they eventually lost to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the eliminator.

With Rajasthan franchise retaining Rahane as the skipper for this season, the 30-year-old is now looking forward to the challenge of making it count once again. On the day Royals launched their new pink kit for the 2019 IPL, Rahane spoke about his bond with the franchise, strategy for the season, Smith’s impending return and India’s historic Test series win in Australia.

Excerpts:

Q: How was your experience of leading Rajasthan Royals last year and how do you plan to go about it this season?

A: My experience was really good. When I got to know that I am going to lead Rajasthan Royals, I was so happy. All thanks to the management and Shane Warne who recommended my name since Smith was not available. Being a captain I really learned a lot. Our team did really well considering they were making a comeback after two years.

This year it is going to be all about being consistent. Royals have always been known for playing fearless cricket and backing their players. It’s very important to start well in any tournament and I’m sure we will do that.

Q: How do you think Steve Smith will be received?

A: We all know how good Steve Smith is as a player and what he did in the past for Royals and for Australian cricket. Mistakes can happen and Rajasthan Royals is a team that believes in backing players. Definitely, we will welcome Steve Smith with love because he is our player and he is one of our own. It is good to have him and I’m sure his inputs and experience will benefit us.

Q: How do you think the IPL has helped you become a better player?

A: It’s a different format with people coming from different countries and different cultures. You learn so many things not only on the field but also off it — how they behave, their culture, their attitude towards life and cricket. Nowadays we play reverse sweeps and switch hits in Test cricket as well. It’s all because of the IPL and the T20 cricket and the innovation that this format offers. It’s so good that whenever you play T20 cricket, you want to stay two-three steps ahead of your opponent. IPL helped me become a very good cricketer in shorter format—T20 and the ODIs.

Q: What was it like winning the Test series in Australia for the first time? What do you think was the most important factor behind the triumph?

A: That was the biggest moment in our lives. Playing in Australia you know the kind of challenge you face. It’s not easy to win a series there. Their bowling attack was so good. I thought the manner in which we played our cricket was fantastic. First Test match in Adelaide was very important to gather the momentum and from there onwards we were very good and played as a unit. Every batsman did really well. Bowling attack was so impressive. Getting those 20 wickets in the match is never easy. I thought because of our bowlers and their efforts that we did so well in Australia.

First Published: Feb 11, 2019 17:02 IST