Who are the Royals eyeing as Smith’s replacement?

Rajasthan Royals aiming sign Heinrich Klaasen Steve Smith replacement Indian Premier League IPL cricket

The Rajasthan Royals want Heinrich Klaasen to take Steve Smith’s spot on the roster for this year’s IPL

Image courtesy of: Zimbio

With Steve Smith having been barred from playing in this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL), the Rajasthan Royals are looking to sign South Africa wicketkeeper-batsman Heinrich Klaasen as his replacement.

Smith stepped down as captain and was banned from taking part in the tournament due to his involvement in the ball tampering scandal.

As a result, Smith and David Warner, who resigned as captain of the Sunrisers Hyderabad and was also not allowed to take part in the competition, were banned for 12 months by Cricket Australia. Opening batsman Cameron Bancroft was suspended for nine months.

In addition to this, Smith will not be permitted to captain Australia for two years, while Warner won’t be considered for leadership roles in the future.

While many high-profile players went unsold during the IPL auction in January, including Hashim Amla, Joe Root and Martin Guptill, Zubin Bharucha, the Royals’ head of cricket, has made it clear that Klaasen is the man the franchise want.

Even though Klaasen was not among the players that went under the hammer, he was part of the extended list. As a result, the Royals have sent a request to the BCCI.

“Our aim was to get someone who can play spin well because we are pretty sure that spinners will have a big role to play during the IPL,” Bharucha told the Times of India as quoted by Cricbuzz. “Klaasen is an amazing player of spin. And he has a vast array of shots, which tempted us to go for him. He plays the reverse sweep very well, something that will be quite useful in the IPL.”

Klaasen was one of the standouts during the recent ODI and Twenty20 series against India, and given the way he took the attack to the spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, who caused the Proteas all sorts of problems, Bharucha admitted that it was incredible to watch.

“His strategy against them was just amazing,” Bharucha added. “Some of our strategies can very well revolve around him.”

Should Klaasen join the Royals, he will only cost the franchise INR 50 lakh. Prior to the IPL auction, the Royals retained Smith for INR 12.5 crores.

Given that they will save a massive amount of money, Bharucha made it clear that the franchise will save those funds and use it to retain Smith for next year’s tournament.

“Smith will be back with us next year and we did not want to end up with two similar players,” he said. “Our idea was to build the team keeping three years in mind. Even after Smith is back, Klaasen will be very useful for us.”

While Klaasen was initially surprised, but quick to say they he would play for the Royals, Bharucha isn’t concerned about the fact that the 26-year-old has little experience when it comes to playing in India.

“In this format, that does not matter much,” he said.

When asked why they hadn’t gone with a more experienced player who captain Ajinkaya Rahane could have bounced ideas off, Bharucha said: “Rahane can turn to anyone. All our players know the exact role they are expected to play. Even the junior most player will be able to tell Rahane if something is not going as per plan.”

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