It has been five months since Steve Smith featured in an international match. The coronavirus-induced lockdown in the world of sport forced the cricketers into a long break.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) — scheduled to start on September 19 in the UAE — will mark the return of Smith along with other international stars. He is excited to lead the Rajasthan Royals again.
Smith understands the conditions will be challenging and that adaptability will be the key. “The conditions in Dubai can be similar to what you get in India or they could be different. It’s about adapting on the run. That’s going to be the key message for me and the coaching staff along the way as well,” said Smith, while interacting with a select group of media during the special screening of Inside Story: A Season with Rajasthan Royals – a three-part documentary-series on the Royals’ campaign in the IPL last year.
Six years ago, the first-leg of the IPL was in the UAE. Smith believes that experience will help a few players. “Guys are gonna be just jumping out of their skin to get into there and play some quality cricket. It’s disappointing that it’s not in India, we would have absolutely loved to play there. But to get the tournament up and give everyone a chance to play, it’s amazing what has been going behind the scene,” Smith said.
The past few months have been challenging for the cricketing fraternity but the situation is slowly getting better with players resuming training. “A lot of people have not played any cricket at all or had very little under their belts, so from that point of view, it’s sort of an even contest. Everyone is going in with the same sort of preparations, which is nice…”
“It has, however, been incredibly difficult times and guys are trying to get their cricket pitches anywhere possible. Riyan (Parag) was telling me that he’s hitting a ball, hanging off a string in his backyard,” said Smith.
Before participating in the IPL, the Australian team will travel to England for a limited-overs series.
“I haven’t played a game since February (March 13). Like most of the world, we have also had a shutdown and find our way through the COVID-19 experience, which has been incredibly different for everyone. It will be great to be able to play good competitive cricket against a quality England outfit and also against a few Royals team-mates. I hope they don’t score too many runs or take too many wickets in that series, they can save that for the IPL,” he said.
As part of the new protocols, the Australian team will have to be inside a bio-bubble when it tours England. A similar set-up will be in place for the IPL as well. “It will be difficult for anyone being away from their loved ones for an extended period of time. But you kind of get used to it in a way, playing international cricket. Quite often you end up spending a long time apart, so you find a way to make it work,” said Smith.