Ever since returning to international cricket, following a one-year ban, 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.
Even in the just concluded ODI series against India, 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 in finals,” he tells Sportstar during an interaction.
With Australian Andrew McDonald joining as the head coach of the 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 your plans?
Yeah look, it’s exciting to be back leading the Royals. I have had a few opportunities to lead the 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 in finals.
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?
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.
On personal front, it has been a fantastic year, but somehow many felt that you have been destructive in 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 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, have some happy memories of the 50-over World Cup there back home in 2015 and would like to do well again. Hopefully, play a lot more of T20s and continue to score runs across all the formats.
The youngsters like Marnus Labuschagne have fared well for Australia. What are your thoughts on youngsters emerging in Australian cricket?
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 closer to the World T20 we might see more youngsters possibly coming into the Australia squad.
You are an example of a spirited comeback. What is your message to the cricketers who are going through mental stress and anxiety?
Yeah look, 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. I guess what my message would be to you know when you’re going through a difficult stage is to have faith that it’s going to get better, it might not feel like it at certain times but time sort of heals all wounds in a way. The more you stick it out and have faith that it’s going to be okay.