Smith a 'remarkable' IPL steal, but faces selection squeeze
Delhi coach Ponting delighted to secure talents and experience of Aussie superstar, though the 31-year-old is no certain starter
6 April 2021, 05:26 PM AEST
Ricky Ponting says it was "actually quite remarkable" how his Delhi Capitals franchise was able to pick up Australian star Steve Smith on the cheap for the upcoming Indian Premier League.
However, the Capitals head coach has indicated Smith is not a certain selection in his side as the 31-year-old battles a host of international guns and top-order talent for a spot in the Delhi XI.
Smith was purchased for A$390,000 at February's auction, a significant drop in value after he'd been on a A$2.2 million deal with Rajasthan the year before.
Ponting had told Smith before the auction he was eager to bring him to the Capitals, but conceded the Australian wasn't spoken about at length in Delhi's pre-auction strategy meetings given they expected to be outbid by other teams who had more money available under the salary cap.
But to the shock of most observers, including Ponting as he watched the auction remotely from his home in Melbourne, there were just two bids for Smith on the night of the auction; one from Royal Challengers Bangalore and the other from Delhi, before RCB pulled out of the race.
"I'm not really sure how we got him so cheap," Ponting told cricket.com.au this week ahead of the 2021 tournament, which starts on Friday night.
"It was quite clear that a lot of other teams had more money than us going into the auction. A lot of other teams released more players, so they got a lot of their salary cap back.
"So going into the auction, we hadn't really spoken a lot about Smithy. His name did come up in some of the strategy stuff, but … we just thought 'we're getting outbid', simple as that. So we hadn't put that much time into it.
"I was on the phone at home actually watching the auction live and talking to our owners as it was all happening. And that one bid came from us, and it was one bid and bang! Sold to Delhi Capitals.
"It was actually quite remarkable how it turned out because that sort of class doesn't come around all the time and that sort of experience doesn't come around all the time."
In a behind-the-scenes video released a week later, it was revealed that RCB only bid for Smith to force other franchises to spend money early in the auction, a part of Bangalore's overall strategy to spend big later in the night on Australian Glenn Maxwell (A$2.52 million) and Kiwi quick Kyle Jamieson (A$2.66 million).
While Smith adds plenty of depth and talent to Delhi's list, he faces a battle to win a spot in their first-choice side after they finished second last season.
Only four international players can be picked in any one XI and Australian Marcus Stoinis as well as South African pair Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje will be hard to overlook given their strong performances in 2020.
It means Smith could be battling middle-order players Shimron Hetmyer (West Indies) and Sam Billings (England) as well as pace-bowling allrounders Chris Woakes and Tom Curran (both England) for the fourth and final international spot.
If Smith plays, Ponting says he will likely bat in the top three in a side that is without their injured captain, Indian batting star Shreyas Iyer.
With the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant, Ajinkya Rahane and Stoinis all capable of batting in the top order, there are plenty of contenders to take a spot in the top three from the man ranked number two in the ICC Test batting rankings.
But with a T20 World Cup in India later this year as well as an IPL mega-auction ahead of next season, Ponting believes Smith won't be lacking in motivation after being let go by Rajasthan.
"I think the fact that he's been released from the franchise that he's been at for a long time will make him a bit hungry as well this year," he said.
"So, if he gets an opportunity with us – I think it will be in the top three somewhere – if he gets an opportunity, I'm sure he'll have a great year for us.
"I caught up with him (recently), he's very, very keen to go out there and perform well.
"Obviously the other side of that is there's a big auction again next year, so if he happens to have a really good IPL this year, then I'm sure that that price is going to go up for the coming season.
"(It's) great to have him as a part of our squad. As I said – even if he doesn't play, for instance, to have someone like that around with his sort of knowledge on the game and the T20 game, will be great for our group. I can't wait to work with him again.
"When you get a chance to play in a competition like that, which is as strong as it is, it can't hurt you, that's for sure. You can take so much from it because you're playing against the best players in the world for eight weeks in a row."
Don't miss The Heat Repeat on Foxtel, coming April 7. The two-part documentary will also be shown on Kayo and cricket.com.au.