Indian Premier League 2017
Ponting wary of Smith workload
Test great backs Australia captain to succeed in charge of Pune but fears for his workload
6 April 2017, 07:31 PM AEST
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has backed Steve Smith to handle his recent promotion to the captaincy of his Indian Premier League franchise, but he remains wary of the 27-year-old's workload heading into the Champions Trophy later this year.
Already captain of Australia in all three formats, Smith was also handed the leadership of IPL side Rising Pune Supergiants in February, taking over from India's World-Cup winning skipper MS Dhoni to lead a team that also includes South Africa's Test and T20 captain Faf du Plessis and Ashes rival Ben Stokes.
Ponting concedes Smith's elevation to the RPS captaincy came as a "big surprise" given Dhoni was still a member of the side, but says the Australian's recent dominance in all forms of cricket made him a logical choice as skipper.
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Ponting had flagged his reservations early last year about Smith's workload, suggesting he should consider stepping down from leading Australia's T20 side in order to relieve some of the pressure that comes with captaining his country.
Smith hasn't actually played a T20I series since the ICC World T20 tournament in India last March, handing the captaincy to David Warner in Sri Lanka last September and Aaron Finch for a home series in February.
Ponting applauded Smith for how he's handled his various leadership responsibilities but says captaining another side will only add to an already heavy load.
"I'm not so sure," Ponting told cricket.com.au when asked if the RPS captaincy would be a positive step for Smith.
"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.
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"I came out more than 12 months ago now and (said) ... for Steve Smith's best interests, I thought to stand down from the Australian T20 captaincy and have a little bit of a break away from all the extra stuff that you have to do might be a good thing for him mentally.
"But he seems to be coping pretty well with everything at the moment. But we'll wait and see how that plays out."
While Smith has only captained Australia on eight occasions in T20 cricket, he cut his teeth as a skipper in the shortest form of the game; he led the Sydney Sixers to the inaugural KFC Big Bash League title in 2011-12 when he was just 22 and he also captained the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL two years ago.
And Ponting says he has "no doubt" the Australian can handle the leadership of the RPS over the coming weeks.
"I saw him when I was commentating in the Big Bash a couple of years ago and he did maybe half a season with the Sixers," Ponting recalled. "And we were up in the box and we're trying to analyse and trying to think ahead of the game ... and sure enough as we were talking about it, those things were happening on the field.
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"The art of captaincy in the T20 game is staying an over or two ahead of the game and I think he does that particularly well.
"That's why he's had the success that he's had as a player. Even with his Test batting, he's thinking ahead of the game.
"That will hold him in great stead ... if he keeps thinking like that then he'll have great success (as a captain)."
The IPL continues a near non-stop period of cricket for the likes of Smith and his vice-captain David Warner, who've been on the road since Australia's ODI tour of South Africa last October.
And that will continue with the Champions Trophy ODI tournament in the United Kingdom in June, which starts just 11 days after the IPL comes to a close with the final on May 21.
While Smith remained in India following the recent Test series, Warner returned home to enjoy some time with his family before jetting out to India again this week for the IPL opener early on Thursday morning (AEST).
Ponting expects the duo to be at their best during the tournament, but cautioned that a dip in intensity was inevitable.
"They'll get themselves up and ready (for the IPL)," he said. "They're professionals and have been there and done it before.
"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."