Steven Smith , the Rajasthan Royals captain, is available for selection for their IPL 2020 opener against the Chennai Super Kings on Tuesday in Sharjah, according to head coach Andrew McDonald. Smith missed Australia’s ODI series against England earlier this month because of concussion.
“Fantastic news that Steve is available,” McDonald said in a Royals release. “It’s fantastic especially on the back of some setbacks back in the UK. It is obviously great to have your skipper available for the first game, as I have said before we are in really good hands. In terms of the rest of the squad, we couldn’t be happier with their preparation. We’ve got what we needed, having been here nice and early to get our preparation going on the back of the long lay-off.”
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Smith arrived in the UAE on September 17. He has since been monitored by the Royals support staff in consultation with Cricket Australia’s medical team. On Monday, Justin Langer, Australia’s head coach, said Smith seemed “visibly ill” as he tried to prove his fitness ahead of the ODI series decider on September 16. On Sunday, after two days of rest in Dubai, Smith was put through the paces at training, and was confirmed to be fit enough to train on match eve.
“Yesterday (Sunday) I did a bit of zig-zag running, which is part of the protocols to pass to get back to play, and today (Monday) I’ll have a hit in the nets,” Smith said. “Hopefully, [I will] pull up well from the hit and be good to play tomorrow.
“The guys have been here for a month now and from all reports, the training’s been magnificent. It’s been good to catch up with both the old and the new Royals. We’re in a good place and have got a really good squad this year, really strong and we’re ready to get going.”
Rajasthan Royals head coach Andrew McDonald hopes the team can learn from the 2019 ODI World Cup winners
The Royals are among the few sides to have had multiple training sessions in Sharjah, the venue for their opening game. McDonald believes the familiarity with the ground will give his batsmen some advantage.
“We’ve trained at Sharjah a couple of times. Most of our players have got a really good feel for the surface,” he said. “We’ve had some net practice in the middle which is always a positive rather than just nets out at the back. The guys have been able to feel what it’s like batting at the center and have had plenty of fielding down there, so they are quite familiar with the stadium.
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“It’s clearly a different surface to Dubai or Abu Dhabi in terms of runs and the size of the venue, so it’ll create some difficult challenges there for the bowling unit, so no question there being a high-scoring ground. But we feel the team will put out their best show to be able to combat what CSK will throw at us.”
McDonald also underlined the depth of his squad, despite not having the services of Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes. Buttler arrived in the UAE with his family from the UK and will be on extended quarantine. Stokes, meanwhile, is still in New Zealand with his family, with the franchise awaiting confirmation about his participation.
“We have got the bases covered and have some really good depth in the squad and really looking forward to seeing what it looks like in a real competitive match against CSK,” he said. “They had a fantastic first game, they’re one game into the tournament which is a slight advantage when you come out against the team that’s already played and performed. So, we’ll definitely have our work cut out and really looking forward to what our guys can bring to the table and we’re really excited about what the journey presents.”
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