Steven Smith targeting return to action in Rajasthan Royals’ season opener

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Steven Smith is targeting a return to action in Rajasthan Royals’ opening IPL 2019 match. It would mark his full return to the game following an elbow surgery he underwent in January this year, which had left question marks over his fitness and preparedness in the lead up to the World Cup.
The Royals’ first game of the season is against Kings XI Punjab, at their home base in Jaipur on March 25, and around a week before the fixture, Smith said that he had been hitting the ball well enough in the nets and “getting myself into a good rhythm”.
Smith has a set plan for getting to his best before the team’s season-opener, in the process putting out a timeline for his return to on-field action for the first time since his surgery.
“Hitting as many balls as I can, really, over the next week, getting myself into a good rhythm. Started batting a couple of weeks ago back home, feel like I’m hitting the ball really well, so yeah, just try and get my rhythm right,” he said in a Royals’ social media chat.
“(I’ll try to) make sure over the next week to get a lot of work in, so that I can probably taper off towards the back-end of the week so I can freshen up and be ready to go on the 25th and hopefully start off the Royals season with a win.”
Smith and David Warner complete their year-long bans for ball-tampering on March 29. The decision on the part of the Cricket Australia management is that the two of them should have an extended stint in the IPL before returning to Australia in early May for a training camp in Brisbane ahead of the World Cup. It was confirmed earlier that Warner, who also underwent should surgery earlier this year, would be fit and available for selection in Sunrisers Hyderabad’s first game of the IPL season, on March 24.
For Smith, it’s a homecoming of sorts to the Royals set-up, which he was a part of in 2014 and 2015 before the franchise was suspended for two years along with Chennai Super Kings for a corruption-related issue. Smith shifted to Rising Pune Supergiant for those two seasons before he, and Warner, were suspended from the IPL last year for the Newlands ball-tampering scandal.
At Royals, one of Smith’s team-mates is Jos Buttler, the explosive English wicketkeeper-batsman who had a fantastic run in the IPL last year, his performances even leading to a call-up from the England Test team.
“Yeah, it’ll be great (playing with Buttler). Makes things easier for me batting with Jos for sure. He’s an exciting player, one of the most destructive batters around the world. I’m really excited to be playing with him and hopefully learn something off him as well,” Smith said.
After the IPL comes the World Cup, and then the Ashes. There is no certainty about Smith’s participation in either competition, but the former captain is looking forward to being a part of both: “They are both terrific tournaments. They are both, I guess, the pinnacle of one-day cricket and Test cricket, for an Australian player. I’d love to be involved in both for sure.”