What’s the story?
Former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting has expressed reservations on Steven Smith captaining Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) in the 2017 IPL edition. Speaking to cricket.com.au, the 42-year old asserted that the nearly two-month-long tournament could mentally drain Smith and David Warner by the time the Champions Trophy begins in June.
When asked about the positives of Smith leading RPS, Ponting insisted, “I'm not so sure. Knowing how taxing the captaincy can be, to be captain of three teams for Australia is hard enough. And when you've got another couple of months of captaincy and responsibility on top of that, it's actually quite interesting to see how that will all play out.”
On the possible impact of the packed calendar on Smith and Warner’s form in Champions Trophy, he felt, “They'll get themselves up and ready (for the IPL). The worry they might have is post that with a Champions Trophy around the corner. We know how exciting the IPL can be, there's guaranteed to be some sort of let down on the other end.
“So it'll be interesting to see what they'll bring come early June.”
Ahead of the tournament, RPS replaced veteran MS Dhoni with Smith at the helm of affairs. The decision was aimed at resuscitating the franchise’s fortunes following a seventh-placed finish in the 2016 season. Already Australia’s skipper across all three formats of the game, the 27-year old now finds himself shouldering captaincy duties right throughout the year.
The heart of the matter
Smith is coming into this IPL season on the back of a high-intensity series against India. Even though Australia lost the 4-match rubber 1-2 and consequently conceded the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to Virat Kohli’s troops, his leadership skills as well as relentless appetite for runs stood out.
The right-hander alongside opener Warner will be key to Australia’s campaign in the upcoming edition of the Champions Trophy. Apart from being the key batsman for Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), the latter also leads the franchise.
Even though their workloads are constantly monitored by Cricket Australia, the duo featured in 13 Tests, 22 ODIs and a couple of T20Is during the course of the last 12 months. The IPL season could see them turn out for at least 14 games each and even beyond if their respective clubs manage to qualify for the play-offs.
The 2017 IPL season, which began on April 5th, will continue until May 21. Meanwhile, the Champions Trophy edition is set to start on June 1 with Australia beginning their campaign on the following day against New Zealand in Birmingham.
Ponting’s assessment regarding player workloads has to encompass leading stars from other teams too. With the modern-day game comprising of a hectic calendar, it becomes difficult for the preeminent names to retain their hunger and perform consistently. As for Smith, the IPL could offer him a platform to enhance his captaincy skills in the shortest format.